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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 1:00 am

St. Joe CEO's remark about Bauer probed

JIM CHAPMAN | The Journal Gazette

The Allen County Sheriff's Department investigated a report that St. Joseph Hospital CEO Karen Fordham made threatening remarks about former Lutheran Hospital CEO Brian Bauer during a meeting last month.

In the report Bauer filed with police Thursday, Fordham said Bauer “should be shot and killed for what he did.”

Bauer told the sheriff's department he was contacted Feb. 27 by Vincent Green, a St. Joseph administrator. Bauer said Green attended a meeting with other people whom Bauer did not name at the hospital's administrative conference room. St. Joseph is part of Lutheran Health Network.

According to the police report, Green told Bauer that as Fordham referred to a news article about a judge allowing Bauer to work at IU Health, but with restrictions, after his firing from Lutheran, she said “the headline made it seem like he (Mr. Bauer) won, we won. Our whole plan was to show IU Health what he did while working for us, who is to say he won't do it to them? He should be shot and killed for what he did.”

On Feb. 28, according to the police report, Bauer contacted his lawyer who emailed an attorney for Community Health Systems, Lutheran Health Network's parent company. That email voiced Bauer's concerns about Fordham's statement and how inappropriate it was, the report said.

On March 1, according to the police report, Bauer's lawyer received a response from a CHS lawyer. “The email stated that the facility CEO (Karen Fordham) was counseled that such comments are 'inappropriate for the workplace,'” the report stated.

The email from CHS also stated Lutheran Health Network officials “believed there was no basis to believe that any actual 'adverse action' would be taken against Mr. Bauer,” according to the report.

There were more emails between the lawyers, the report said. One email said Bauer had learned of other executives making threatening comments about him. An email to Bauer's attorney said the statements were inappropriate “but no credible suggestion should be made for them to be understood in their literal sense,” according to the police report. 

On Monday, Geoff Thomas, public relations supervisor at Lutheran Health Network, said in an email: “An off-the-cuff, regrettable comment was made in a small group of administrative staff at St. Joseph Hospital recently and subsequently reported to our compliance line. We take reports to the compliance hotline very seriously. The incident was immediately reviewed and addressed accordingly.” 

Thomas also said Green, the alleged witness to the statement, is no longer working for Lutheran Health Network. Green's departure is unrelated to the police report, Thomas said.

Lutheran Health Network fired Bauer in June. In November, CHS sued Bauer, alleging breach of contract. Bauer now works for Indiana University Health.

On Feb. 27, a Tennessee judge ruled Bauer can continue working for IU Health but said he isn't allowed to:

• Recruit Lutheran Health Network employees to work at IU Health;

• Use confidential or proprietary Lutheran network information in his role with IU Health;

• Strike a deal to develop a competing health care network with an investor who has received protected information about Lutheran's network from him.

In addition, Bauer must try to recover confidential, proprietary Lutheran Health Network information from anyone he previously shared it with, including New Mountain, a venture capital private equity investor tied to the Menard family.

jchapman@jg.net