$160,000 Forrest County contract under review

$160,000 Forrest County contract under review
Forrest County Jail/Photo credit: WDAM

FORREST COUNTY (WDAM) - Annual medical care at the Forrest county Jail costs taxpayers nearly $200,000, with part of that going to a yearly contract to a Hub City doctor.

Since 2003, Dr. David Lee, of Southern Neurologic and Spinal Institute has been awarded the $160,000 contract that covered the jail, juvenile detention center and the Forrest County Annex.

Recently, the Lee name and its ties to the Forrest County Sheriff's Department administrators have been under the microscope.

Dr. David Lee has no questionable ties to the Forrest County Jail; however his father, John Lee does.

Last week, during a federal trial for Chief Deputy Charles Bolton, his father chose to plead the fifth in efforts to avoid self incrimination.

Further testimony in that trial revealed that Lee's father is the target of an ongoing federal investigation.

On the heels of the guilty verdict in federal court, convicting Bolton of nine felonies, that contract may not be renewed.

"Well the main reason is that Forrest General has begun helping us with our inmate medical costs, they're now providing nursing staff, we get the benefit of their costs for the medications," Forrest County Board of Supervisors President David Hogan said.  "In looking at the operations that we have currently, they drew up a (Request for Proposal)RFP for us and we are considering putting the RFP out for bids, consolidating services and hopefully be able to save the tax payers some money."

Dr. David Lee is the son of John Lee, who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Chief Deputy Charles Bolton, while he was running the Forrest County Jail.

Even through court testimony, it is unclear why John Lee gave Bolton that money, and during testimony John Lee's name was brought up dozens of times.

Reporter question: "In hindsight of everything that's been going on with the Lee's name, his father's name has been brought into a federal investigation, does that have anything to do with the fact that y'all are looking to go in a different direction?"

Not at all, I mean I think what you are referring to is just ironic," Hogan said.

"As far as Dr. Lee goes, he's a local renowned physician that has provided this service to us since 2003, he's done us a good job, keep in mind it's the three facilities, it's the jail, it's the annex, it's the juvenile detention center and you are talking about 350 inmates," Hogan said.

Reporter question: "Does that amount of money that is being channeled to the chief deputy have any weight on this decision from the sheriff?"

Well, as a general rule the board of supervisors takes the sheriffs recommendation on how best to run the sheriff's office and the jail facility, that is his responsibility, we take very seriously his recommendations and as a general rule we follow those," Hogan said.

Hogan added that this whole thing is from a recommendation for Forrest General Hospital to look at consolidating the medical nursing, physician and medication services in the county.

In 2003, the first available contract from the board minutes, shows the contract was for $50,000 per year, payable in 11 monthly payments of $4,166.66, since then, that figure has climbed to $160,000.

The exact amount the county spends outside of the $160,000 contract was not available, but according to supervisors, it is the equivalent of "the salary of four full time nurses."

According to Hogan, the supervisors will likely bid out the contract, and he added that he hopes Lee will also put in a bid.

The contract ends on Sept. 30 and after that, it will be paid month by month, in payments of $13,333.33 until a new contract is put in place, or the current one is renewed.

"Our main goal here is to do our part in saving the tax payers money, and if consolidating the services can do that, than we need to," Hogan said.

Forrest County Sheriff Billy McGee did not return phone calls for comment.