State Auditor to County: Make sure hospital sale is legal

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A letter written by Auditor of State Dave Yost to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters is warning that the sale of Drake Hospital could have negative consequences to the county's next audit.

Last week, the Hamilton County Commissioners Todd Portune and Chris Monzel voted to sell the Drake Hospital to the UC Health for $15 million. UC Health already leases the Drake Hospital.

The money made from the sale would be used to help fill the $14 million stadium fund hole.

In the letter, Yost says that the sale has created several concerns, including:

  • There's already a lease agreement in place, where if UC Health wanted to buy Drake Hospital, the current sale price would be $27 million, not $15 million.
  • County auditor Dusty Rhodes has appraised the Drake Hospital at $45 million.
  • The discussions and negotiations that surrounded the proposed sale do not appear to have happened during an open meeting, which could be illegal.

At the end of the letter, Yost writes, "I encourage Hamilton County to take immediate action to ensure that any sale of this county asset is in compliance with all applicable provisions of law."

FOX19 spoke to Chris Monzel about the letter, and he believes that it doesn't raise any major concerns. He says that the letter perpetuates some of the misinformation about the value of the land sold, and also that by having aides e-mail each other during the negotiation of the deal, there was no violation of Open Meeting Laws.

Monzel also adds that he believes the sale will go through, and there will be a balanced budget.

Commissioner Todd Portune also defended the sale, saying "It is a good deal for the county that balances the stadium fund; preserves a tax break for homeowners at a time when they need it the most; and leverages other significant public benefits in terms of enhancing public health and promoting other economic development and job creation."

The letter sent by Yost is not an official finding by the Auditor's office, but is being used as a warning to the county.

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