At least Renaissance Hospital is paying somebody.
While scores of employees have gone without paychecks from the highly scrutinized hospital for the last few months - and no word yet on if any employees were paid today - Steve and Eileen Nguyen coughed up $634,488.35 to the Jefferson County Tax Office in a matter of hours after Tax Accessor Shane Howard and some three dozen county employees, including people from his staff and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, arrived at 9:20 this morning to serve a tax warrant on the property and seize the property.
"I don't think they were expecting us," Howard said this afternoon, "at least they didn't demonstrate that they did."
Howard said as soon as he and his team arrived, the Nguyens "immediately" made it clear that they wanted to resolve the situation and pay off the taxes. They had their bank wire the money to the county tax office.
Howard said the Nguyens were now up to date on their taxes and would receive their tax bill for 2012 at the end of the year like normal. The hospital remains under investigation by the Texas Department of State Health Services, which has had investigators there since Monday, with a third investigator showing up Wednesday. The three are investigating a compliant that was submitted last month. Another complaint was filed on site when investigators arrived. Carrie Williams, press officer for the TDSHS, said she could not divulge the nature of the complaints in accordance with confidentiality requirements.
It was the investigation by the state that essentially prompted Howard to take action against the Nguyens this week. He said he was concerned that the county would not be able to collect on its lien in the wake of what the state might find in its investigation. Howard said it's very rare that his office will serve a tax warrant on a business or entity, but given the circumstances surrounding Renaissance Hospital and the looming uncertainty as to whether the hospital will remain open, Howard felt it necessary to pounce. Howard said his office and the law firm that represents the office had contacted the Nguyens "numerous" times this week about their outstanding tax debt, and reached either disconnected numbers or their calls were never returned.
While he had authorization to freeze all of the hospital's bank accounts, he chose not to in the event that the employees were actually being paid. Howard said he had no knowledge as to whether the employees were paid. Howard said he was pleased with how everything went down this morning, and the county and the citizens of Groves are the winners today because of the taxes that were paid. The county no longer has an issue with the hospital, but the hospital's troubles are far from over as the state continues to investigate.