Fired CEO alleges slander, conspiracy in suit against Scotland County Hospital

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Scotland County Hospital in Memphis, Missouri. | Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent

MEMPHIS, Mo. — The ousted administrator of a northeast Missouri hospital is accusing board members and employees of conspiring to have him fired by falsely claiming he violated federal laws and embezzled millions.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Dr. Randy Tobler claims he has been unable to find employment because of the way he was fired in August by the Scotland County Hospital Board of Directors. Tobler, an obstetrician/gynecologist, began practicing at the Memphis, Mo., hospital in 2006 and became chief executive officer in 2014.

“The actions taken by a group of board members, their agent and complicit executives now in leadership at Scotland County Hospital leave me no choice but to file this lawsuit,” Tobler said in a news release announcing the lawsuit. “Their actions resulted in the suspension of my staff privileges, immediately preventing access to my patients.”

Tobler declined a request for an interview.

His attorney, Lowell Pearson, said Tobler has two goals in any resolution of the case.

“His real motivation here is to obtain justice and reveal the truth,” Pearson said.

Current CEO Megan Weber issued a statement on behalf of the hospital and Achim Hoyal, named as a defendant because of his role in Tobler’s ouster. 

“As a quasi-public governmental body, the board acted in the best interest of the hospital and community to safeguard public funds,” the statement read. “The board and Mr. Hoyal intend to vigorously defend against the lawsuit brought by Dr. Tobler and look forward to presenting our defense in court.”

The lawsuit makes four basic charges – that the board violated the Sunshine Law, that board members and a consultant slandered Tobler, illegally interfered with his relationship with patients and conspired to remove him from his job.

As a result of his ouster, and the news reports about it, Tobler has been unable to find other employment as a physician, the lawsuit states. He host a daily political talk show on a Columbia radio station.

“Dr. Tobler has had meetings and/or telephone conversations concerning potential employment with the Hannibal Regional Health System, Northeast Regional Medical Center, and Samaritan Hospital in Macon, Missouri,” the lawsuit states. “Leadership at each of these hospitals questioned Dr. Tobler about news reports that he had allegedly embezzled money from SCH.”

The Independent detailed the firing of Tobler and its aftermath in a November report, building on local coverage from the Memphis Democrat. As part of its investigation of the firing, The Independent found the hospital is in precarious financial condition. It has lost money for five consecutive years and only federal COVID-19 payments received over the previous year had kept the 25-bed hospital’s bank account solvent.

 Lori Fulk, chair of the Scotland County Hospital District Board of Directors, speaks during an Aug. 30 meeting. | Echo Menges/Memphis Democrat

The events that are at the heart of Tobler’s suit occurred in mid-August, when the board met on successive days in emergency closed sessions without any public notice. The lawsuit is against the board as a body and Achim Hoyal, son of a physician at the hospital, who was present for the meetings and listed as a “consultant” in the minutes.

In the first meeting, on Aug. 15 at board chair Lori Fulk’s home, two of the six board members were deliberately excluded and a third, Joni Lloyd, only asked to attend after the meeting started. 

The closed meeting minutes for Aug. 15 report the board received a financial report “with concerns of malicious impropriety and content.” The lawsuit states that Hoyal accused Tobler of violating the federal anti-kickback statute known as the Stark Law in the pharmacy program.

“Hoyal claimed in numerous board meetings from Aug. 15, 2022 through Aug. 18, 2022 that Dr. Tobler ‘embezzled’ money through the SCH daycare and pharmacy and committed Stark Law violations. These statements are false,” the lawsuit states.

The board members present at the Aug. 15 meeting voted to fire Tobler. He was also banned from practicing medicine at the hospital, including caring for patients who had recently given birth.

The next day, the full board met again in closed session and Hoyal continued his presentations of financial misconduct.

Both meetings were knowing and purposeful violations of numerous sections of the Sunshine Law, the lawsuit alleges. The public was not given proper notice, all board members were not given proper notice and the minutes do not state a reason for meeting on short notice or at a location other than the regular meeting place, it states.

The excluded board members — Joe Doubet and Bob Neese, as well as Lloyd — filed complaints about the meetings with the Missouri Attorney General’s office. 

In a Sept. 18 letter, Jason Lewis, chief counsel for governmental affairs with the attorney general’s office, told the hospital the complaints were under investigation and made several demands – including “cease holding meetings that do not include all board members.”

 Achim Hoyal, right, chief financial officer of Scotland County Hospital, takes notes during a Sept. 30 board meeting alongside chief operating officer Brent Pierick. | Echo Menges/Memphis Democrat

Lloyd, Doubet and Neese resigned from the board in September. Hoyal was subsequently hired to be the hospital’s chief financial officer at a salary of $200,000 a year.

Weber and Fulk, at public meetings after Tobler was fired, said they had reported Hoyal’s allegations to the FBI and the Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services and that a “forensic audit” would be conducted.

“There have been no investigations or charges filed against Dr. Tobler regarding any embezzlement or fraud of SCH or Medicare fraud,” the lawsuit states.

Pearson said Tobler has not been contacted by any investigative agency or auditor since his termination.

The information presented by Hoyal did not indicate any fraud or embezzlement and statements made by Hoyal, Fulk and Weber have slandered Tobler, the lawsuit states.

The conspiracy count in the lawsuit alleges Weber, Fulk and Hoyal worked together in the weeks prior to the Aug. 15 meeting to remove Tobler. 

The lawsuit will help him restore his reputation and get the facts to the public, Tobler said in the release.

“My petition pulls back the curtain,” Tobler said, “because Scotland County Hospital’s constituency deserves to know the truth.”

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