Partners Behavioral Health ignores questions about use of lobbyists

RUTHERFORDTON—The controversial decision by Rutherford County Commissioners to potentially leave Vaya Health and to contract with Partners Behavioral Health Management instead has become a communication war with varying stories to Rutherford County residents.  Since each county in North Carolina must be aligned with a local management entity/managed care organization (LME/MCO) and NC is considering the move to a one provider state, RC’s selection for a LME/MCO may serve as a catalyst to the selection by other counties in the state.

Vaya Health and Partners Behavioral Health are local management entities/managed care organizations (LME/MCO) that coordinate mental health and substance abuse services.  Rutherford County has had numerous public comments with concerns and  support about the potential change in organizations. The final decision lies with the approval by the state.

While both county manager Steve Garrison and county commissioner chair Bryan King felt Partners’ priorities and projects could serve Rutherford County residents better, much controversy has arisen locally with the use of the lobbyists, former District 112 Representative Mike Hager and former Senator Debbie Clary who represented Rutherford County, used to engage both of them in the original conversations.

Both former elected officials have left the legislature under questionable circumstances.

Mike Hager (born November 5, 1962) was a Republican member of the North Carolina General Assembly until August, 2016 when his resignation was announced by Republican House leadership. Hager represented the 112th district and had served as majority leader since January 2015. However,  shortly after his exit, Hager registered as a lobbyist along with his daughter. Hager’s lack of success may be attributed to his ouster from the NCGA along with his past actions as reported below:

  • Majority Leader Mike Hager to resign seat in NC House – | WBTV — North Carolina House Majority Leader Mike Hager (R-Rutherford) will resign his seat in the general assembly on Tuesday. Hager confirmed his departure Saturday morning after WBTV obtained a memo from the North Carolina Republican Party that said he had already resigned.
  • He’s lobbying for basically the same build-solar-schools-with-government-money bill that he supposedly fought last session. It’s a new year. New bill number. Same monkey business.
  • —The property owners association (poa) has filed suit against the now defunct Highlands of Lake Lure LLC (originally with Mike Hager & David Odom), Mike Hager, individually et al. At issue are the heavily marketed amenities such as the clubhouse, pool, tennis courts and hiking trails in the 230 acre gated community that were never built. The jury trial was moved to November 13, 2012 to avoid publicity before Election Day.

Hager was also accused of violations of his fiduciary responsibilities as developer and manager by not informing the property owners of this decision. At issue as well are the assessments collected by Hager. Hager admitted guilt in discovery to misrepresentation to several complaints including misrepresentation of marketing of the amenities that were not built. At the last minute the case was settled out of court for an undisclosed payment. Speculation about the source of those funds reveal that they may be related to an appointment to a judgeship.

  •…/article_fabf5d55-e4cb-5bd3-92e9-64f33996b4be.html –While he did not release any of his income tax information, Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford, did discuss where he makes his money. The Daily Courier requested income tax information from all candidate and incumbents running for North Carolina House and Senate in the region. Both Hager and Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Spruce Pine declined to provide the information.
  •… An indictment is expected for Rutherford County’s prize Republican, Mike Hager, for the mess he made at Highlands of Lake Lure. Hager is already broiling in litigation filed by Hager’s angry purchasers. Meanwhile, the attorneys and their favorite judges are scrambling to postpone trials of these men of vice to dates after the election in hopes that political brokers will come to their rescue.
  • Jul 10, 2017 – Hager, a Rutherford County Republican who served as House majority leader before resigning his seat last August, opened his lobbying firm, Hager Strategic Solutions, in February, after the six-month cooling-off period required by state law. On Sunday, Hager posted on Facebook a flier for a private and controversial fundraiser for potential gubernatorial candidate Dan Forest held at CFA leader Tony Helton’s residence where he was listed as a co-host that could be construed as a violation of rules for lobbyists.
  • Hager was also know for passing out checks to candidates and friends.
    RALEIGH, NC 27605 Operating Expense DONATION 1 Check $2,500.00 $2,500.00
    RALEIGH, NC 27603 Operating Expense NC CIVIL PENALTY AND FORFIETURE 1 Check $100.00 $100.00
    06/01/2015 JULIUS OWENS
    SPINDALE, NC 28160 Operating Expense CONSTITUENT OFFICE 1 Check $800.00 $1,400.00
    06/19/2015 JULIUS OWENS
    SPINDALE, NC 28160 Operating Expense SIGN PU & STORAGE 1 Check $600.00 $1,400.00
    The Spindale St address is the site of a former mill now used for a mulching business affiliated with Owens. Owens was a county commissioner who arranged for a $300,000 purchase of his property so that the county could cut a tree on the approach path to the runway.

Debbie Clary (b. August 29, 1959) was a Republican member of the North Carolina State Senate, representing District 46 from 2009-January 10, 2012. She resigned prior to the end of her last term, saying that she planned to work as a lobbyist in economic development.

Clary is perhaps best known as a recipient of a loan from convicted Stephen LaRoque . LaRoque was sentenced to two years in prison by a federal judge for stealing more than $300,000 from a federally-funded non-profit he ran. LaRoque, a former Republican state representative from Kinston, pleaded guilty earlier this year to the theft, shortly before a second trial was expected to start on criminal charges that he used two economic development non-profits he ran to fund a lavish personal lifestyle. He also approved loans to close associates and friends, including his lawyer Bert Diener and two fellow Republican lawmakers, state Rep. Mark Hilton and state Sen. Debbie Clary. Both have since left the legislature, opting not to seek reelection.

The use of these lobbyists, Hager and Clary, who once were elected officials of Rutherford County has raised many questions. Partners never responded to our questions about their actions:

1. Why did Partners seek out lobbyists to approach our county manager and commissioners about their services?

Debbie Clary, Mike Hager, Julius Owens

As you are aware, both Clary and Hager have had negative dealings with the public, their businesses and their elected duties in the past. Why did you select these controversial lobbyists?

2. While rumors abound about NC moving to one state-wide provider, what is Partners doing to prepare to be in the running to be the ONE?

3. Why did Partners attend the Vaya forum? Why did they ALLEGEDLY interrupt the question and answer period?

4. What specific points did your leadership give to the lobbyists about what Partners can do versus Vaya?

Caveat emptor.