State paid $252,465 for 16-page Oregon State Hospital report

From the Salem Statesman Journal, April 4 2009

Former judge was paid for yearlong assessment of reforms, but few officials saw the final product

The state paid former judge James Hargreaves $252,465 to conduct a year-long evaluation of reforms at the Oregon State Hospital.

Few people got to read his final report until recently.

More than a month ago, the 16-page report prepared by the governor-appointed “special master” hit the desks of Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Human Services Director Bruce Goldberg. Then it languished for weeks.

The report, dated Feb. 23, finally was made public almost a week ago, when the Statesman Journal received a tip about its existence, obtained it from the governor’s office and posted the document on its Web site.

Hargreaves said in his report that the long-neglected hospital has made progress. But he also rapped hospital management for a lack of urgency, undefined goals and poor planning.

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, a leader of the state’s push for hospital reforms, said Friday that he was livid to learn about the report through the press.

“The truth is that report had been with the key players for a solid month, and that is very disturbing,” he said.

The report should have been made public as soon as possible, Courtney said, so it could be weighed by legislators, mental-health advocates, hospital workers and Oregon taxpayers — the people paying the tab for Hargreaves’ work, as well as improvements at the state’s main mental hospital and a planned $280 million replacement facility.

Courtney said he vented his anger and frustration about the handling of the report in calls last week to staffers in the governor’s office and to Goldberg.

“Yeah, it’s been a bad few days around here with the governor’s office and Peter and Bruce Goldberg,” he said. “I thought we had a better partnership and a better relationship.”

Courtney also was rankled because he said Hargreaves had promised at the start of his “special master” stint to give a legislative oversight committee regular updates on his findings. That never materialized, he said.

“While the special master did not work for the Legislature, he assured us that he would keep us informed on a regular basis, and we’d be learning from him,” Courtney said. “And then this is the first time I’ve heard from him, and I heard from him in an article (in the press). I just felt like, ‘Well, what’s this all about?'”

Kulongoski appointed Hargreaves as “special master” overseeing hospital improvements in February 2008. The action came in the wake of a scathing federal report about patient care and conditions at the 126-year-old psychiatric facility in Salem.

Terms of Hargreaves’ contract called for him to be paid $150 an hour and set his maximum pay at $300,000. His actual pay proved to be nearly $50,000 less than the specified top amount.

The final report was received favorably by Kulongoski, who met with Hargreaves in early March to discuss it, Anna Richter Taylor, a Kulongoski spokeswoman, said Friday.

“He was pleased with the judge’s work and time on it,” she said. “He thought that he pointed out some valid issues, many of which we believe are being addressed.”

Despite Hargreaves’ criticisms of hospital management, Richter Taylor said Kulongoski has confidence in hospital Superintendent Roy Orr.

“He believes the superintendent is doing a very good job,” she said. “(Orr has) been there a year. There’s been a tremendous amount of work and improvement made … The governor feels that we’re on the right path.”

Asked why Hargreaves’ final report was not immediately made public, Richter Taylor said: “I don’t think we ever necessarily saw this like some big public (report) … I mean, we’re not trying to hide it but the governor asks for reports back all the time from agency directors and people doing special projects. When people ask for it, we turn it over.”

Goldberg said Friday that he intended to provide the report to Courtney and other legislators. He said he regretted not doing so before it appeared in the newspaper.

“To be honest, I hadn’t gotten around to doing it, and that’s the reality,” he said. “I wish in retrospect that I had, and I expressed that to Senator Courtney.”

Although Orr also did not receive the final report prior to it being posted online by the newspaper, Goldberg said the hospital superintendent wasn’t blindsided by its criticisms.

“Roy and the judge and I had met regularly,” Goldberg said. “For many of the things in there, Roy was well aware of the judge’s thoughts.”

Goldberg said that he, too, has full confidence in the hospital chief: “I have a great regard for what he’s done over the past year. He’s got a record of accomplishment in terms of the many improvements at the hospital. I have every confidence that will continue and he will build on that.”

Asked how he reconciled Orr’s first-year achievements with Hargreaves’ assertions about lapses by hospital management, Goldberg drew a distinction between process and outcomes.

“I’m not very interested in process,” he said. “In the end, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And what I look at is the outcomes that have happened over the last year.”

Despite turmoil over the “special master’s” report, Goldberg described the $252,000 payment to Hargreaves as “an excellent investment.”

“I think we’ve gotten a lot of value from the judge, and he’s helped me tremendously and helped improve the care at the hospital,” he said. “I think that it’s been an excellent investment. I’m glad we made it.”

Hargreaves now is working for the state under a separate contract. This time, he’s scrutinizing legal expenses at the Department of Human Services. He reports to Goldberg.

The state’s contract with Hargreaves runs through June. It calls for him to be paid $150 an hour.

Read Judge Hargreaves report on the Oregon State Hospital for Ted Kulongoski