The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Local News

October 8, 2013

Mayor Vulich takes the stand during Walker trial

DAVENPORT — UPDATE: Settling was the only option Mayor Mark Vulich saw when he and then fellow council members unanimously approved the $4.5 million settlement over alleged Medicare fraud, he testified Monday.  

Vulich took the stand Monday afternoon as a witness in the city's legal malpractice suit. The city is suing Michael Walker and his law firm Hopkins and Huebner. The city retained Walker in late September 2009 to represent the city in the False Claims Act case that resulted in the city settling with whistleblower Timothy Schultheis and the federal government for $4.5 million in 2010.

Schultheis alleged the city was billing all ambulance calls as advanced life support instead of basic life support to receive higher reimbursement rates from Medicare and Medicaid.  

The city's goal is to recoup the expenses of the settlement along with other fees, totaling $4.67 million.

At the time of the False Claims suit Vulich was an at-large councilman. He told the jury Monday that based on Walker's advice, settling seemed like the only option. Walker himself had started exploring the option in March 2010, according to a letter to Schultheis' attorney asking if his client had a settlement demand. The city council during a closed session on April 13, 2010 told Walker to move forward with trying to settle, authorizing him to offer $1 million.  

The decision to move forward with a settlement came less than seven months after the council first learned it was being sued and retained Walker.

While Walker in his initial council appearance on Sept. 29, 2009, had presented the council with a number of options the city could employ to defend itself in the False Claims Act case, he was not as optimistic when he returned in April 2010, Vulich testified.  

In the months between the initial and the April meeting, Walker had reviewed records, met with city staff responsible for coding and billing along with other department heads and retained purported billing expert Douglas Wolfberg. Vulich testified that in April 2010 Walker told the council he was concerned based on what he had found in his investigation.

"Basically we were in big trouble. That's how I interpreted it," Vulich said.  "It appeared we had gone into a no-win situation."  

Walker never showed the council a scenario where it could win the Schultheis case, Vulich said. Walker informed the council the city had budgeted for 100 percent ALS and in fact billed 99 percent ALS, far above the national average of 60 percent that Wolfberg said was the benchmark. Council members had never heard these numbers before, Vulich testified. In fact, Vulich said he had never heard about ALS or BLS coding or billing before he learned the city was facing the lawsuit.

At the same time, the council was aware Walker had not reviewed the ALS ratios for other towns in the region. Walker also told the council he had tried to get copies of the dispatch records to prove the ambulance calls were as serious as they were billed, but the records were not available, Vulich testified.

When he returned for the Aug. 3 closed session of the city council, which happened in the same day as a mediation with Schultheis, Walker told the council a $4.5 million settlement was on the table and recommended the city take it.

"I was very unhappy. I was shocked we had gotten into such a mess," Vulich said.  

Still, he and fellow council members decided to move forward with the settlement. Vulich credits his decision to his belief there were no other options based on what Walker had told the council.  

When asked by Walker's attorney Bob Waterman on Monday if he had ever asked Walker any questions in the course of Walker's work on the suit, Vulich said he asked Walker if the city's insurance covered its liability for the alleged fraud. Walker was unable to answer the question. Other than this one instance, Vulich testified, he couldn't recall any other questions he asked Walker that went unanswered.

Neither Vulich nor any other council members said the council should wait to settle pending further investigation or more expert opinions, he testified.  

On Aug. 30, 2010, the council formally approved the settlement. The first payment was made on Oct. 1, 2010. The city has made three $450,000 payments and will make another this month.  

Three months later, Vulich learned a number of facts that made him reconsider. During the Civil Service Commission hearing on Nov. 23, 2010, Vulich learned no one had looked at the ambulance runs to see if they had been billed appropriately, Wolfberg had reviewed only 60 patient care reports and had not formed an opinion on the city's billing and no one had looked into a computer glitch that had been blamed for the city producing duplicate reports. It also was the first time Vulich had ever heard former fire chief Mark Regenwether's and EMS Director Andy McGovern's sides of the story.

At the end of that hearing, Vulich had formed a new opinion.  

"It didn't appear Mr. Walker had done any investigation. There were a lot of questions I thought should have been answered that weren't," Vulich said.  

In December 2010, the city council directed City Attorney Jeff Farwell to look at what the city's options were for pursuing legal malpractice. The legal malpractice suit was filed on March 28, 2012.

Text Only
Local News
  • 4-23-14 Clinton Middle School Forum Photo 2 Leadership Team field concerns from parents CLINTON -- Progress on the new Clinton Middle School continues to move forward and as the deadline for completion draws nearer, school district officials and staff members are interested to know how the community is feeling about the project. What th

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • O'Neill presents CBA terms CLINTON - Public support for emergency responders has grown over the two weeks since the Clinton City Council tabled its collective bargaining resolution with city firefighters. The matter was still unresolved by the end of Tuesday's regular council

    April 23, 2014

  • Man charged in meth case

    A Clinton man has been charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine.

    Timothy W. Atkinson, 35, 1419 Honey Lane, was arrested Sunday after Clinton police executed a search warrant at his residence.

    April 23, 2014

  • Judge denies guilty plea withdrawal

    A Clinton County District Court judge has denied a man's attempt at withdrawing a guilty plea.

    Eric R. Hook, 45, 900 S. 10th St., was sentenced last week to no more than five years in prison for willful injury causing bodily injury, a class D felony. He also was given a sentence of no more than two years in prison for domestic abuse assault, second offense, to be served concurrently.

    April 23, 2014

  • Medication drop boxes available

    Although no formal event is planned in Clinton County for Saturday’s nationwide Medication Take Back Day, area officials are reminding residents this week about permanent drop boxes at area law enforcement agencies.
    Unused or expired medications can be disposed of during normal business hours in the lobbies of four police departments in Clinton County — Camanche Police Department, 819 South Washington Blvd.; Clinton County Sheriff’s office, 241 Seventh Ave. North; Clinton Police Department, 116 Sixth Ave. South; DeWitt Police Department, 606 Ninth St.

    April 23, 2014

  • Legal Services photo New legal services agreement proceeds CLINTON - By one vote, the Clinton City Council voted for Lynch Dallas over local firm Frey, Haufe and Current as its next city attorney service. On Tuesday, in a show of solidarity, the council was unanimous, officially hiring the Cedar Rapids group

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Online Center hosts blood drive CLINTON -- Ashford University's Online Center will host a community blood drive from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 13, at 1390 19th Avenue Northwest inside the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center donor bus. To donate, contact Amanda Pearson at

    April 23, 2014

  • Building to feature generator CLINTON -- After more than seven years of planning, the Clinton County Administration building is getting a new 300-kilowatt diesel-powered Caterpillar generator installed on the campus allowing it to become a certified emergency shelter and warming

    April 23, 2014

  • Northeast Middle and Senior High schools Northeast Middle and Senior High schools have released their third-quarter honor roll: Seventh Grade Keaton Bormann, Keenan Bredekamp, Faith Brown, *Jarrett Brown, Logan Butler, *Ty Cain, *Payton Claussen, Jalyn Cooper, Julian Creger, *Jacob Crow, Au

    April 23, 2014

  • 4-23-14 Paul Blair photo Blair named Bridgeview's executive director CLINTON -- Bridgeview Community Mental Health Center's Board of Directors recently announced the appointment of Paul Blair as the new executive director of Bridgeview, which is a Gateway-area provider of comprehensive mental health services. Blair e

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

Facebook
Clinton
Camanche
Fulton
Clinton Herald photos


Browse, buy and submit pictures with our photo site.