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Jeannette alleges asset waste by Monsour

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By Richard Gazarik
Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

Jeannette officials are asking the state Attorney General's Office to investigate whether former board members of the now-defunct Monsour Medical Center violated state law by failing to distribute the nonprofit's remaining assets before it closed in 2006, the city's attorney said Tuesday.

Solicitor Scott Avolio said he believes the ex-directors are personally liable for wasting the medical center's assets when it closed by leaving behind equipment, furniture and a now-decaying building. It has since been condemned by city officials who say it is a hazard to the public.

Avolio said the state's Charities Act mandates that when a charity or nonprofit closes, a plan to transfer its assets to another charity must be submitted to Westmoreland County Orphans Court for approval. He said board members are accountable for the assets until they are transferred and could be held liable if the assets are not handled correctly.

Nils Frederiksen, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, would not comment on the case but said his office handles thousands of calls each year regarding charities and nonprofits.

Avolio said officials have been unable to determine the identities of the last known board members with the exception of Bill Raber, who was chairman when the hospital closed.

When contacted Tuesday, Raber declined to comment.

The charities law states that “a trustee which allows charitable assets to be squandered or diverted or otherwise dissipated may be individually liable for the loss of those assets regardless of whatever the assets were administered through a corporation,” according to information from the Attorney General's Office.

And that's exactly what Avolio believes happened in the case of Monsour.

Avolio said this is only one of the many battles Jeannette has waged with the facility during several decades.

The former hospital had been in and out of financial trouble for years before the state ordered it closed in 2006 after a series of failed inspections. Before that, the facility was mired in debt and had filed for bankruptcy.

When Avolio became solicitor in 2010, he placed the building back on the tax rolls, knowing that no one would pay the taxes, he said.

If the taxes are delinquent for two years, the county can place the building up for a “free and clear sale” with the buyer being free of any liens or debt against it, Avolio said.

Today, the building has fallen into disrepair and has been targeted by arsonists twice.

Even though it has been condemned and posted with no-trespassing signs, the building is the frequent haunt of vagrants.

Avolio said he is concerned that someone who enters the building will be hurt.

Jeannette officials have been frustrated in their attempts to demolish the property because the city doesn't have the money to perform the work and the state says it has no jurisdiction.

Going after the directors, Avolio said, may be one way to get the building razed before it collapses.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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