County mum on $50K in legal fees


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Pasquotank County has spent about $50,000 so far on legal fees on a matter involving Sentara Healthcare — but county officials aren't saying what it is.

Last week, Pasquotank County Attorney Mike Cox said the county had paid $49,773 to Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough, of Raleigh. That law firm includes Bob Wilson as a co-manager. Wilson served as Pasquotank's special counsel while negotiating the lease of the former Albemarle Hospital to Norfolk, Virginia-based Sentara Healthcare.

Cox said Pasquotank is paying Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough an hourly rate of $490, meaning the firm has put in more than 100 hours working on the county’s behalf. Pasquotank hired the firm about a year ago, but most of its work has been performed in the last few months, Cox said.

Citing attorney-client privilege, Cox declined to say what legal matter Wilson is working on. Cox acknowledged the county is talking with Sentara about the matter, though.

It also appears to involve some aspect of the lease. Cox would not say whether Sentara is complying with all the conditions of its lease with the county. Sentara agreed to pay Pasquotank many millions of dollars for control of the hospital, in addition to guaranteeing quality health services, major capital investments and physician recruitment.

Cox also declined to answer whether Wilson’s work involves the county's roughly $7.2 million in escrow. That money is part of an upfront payment Sentara made to Pasquotank as part of its hospital lease.

Pasquotank Commissioner Jeff Dixon served as chairman of the board of commissioners during the negotiation of the Sentara lease. Reached for comment last week, Dixon declined to say what Wilson was working on, but provided more assurances than Cox did. He said he's satisfied that Sentara is managing Sentara Albemarle well and has honored its lease.

Sentara Albemarle spokeswoman Annya Soucy couldn't say what Wilson was working on either, but said “unequivocally” that Sentara is fulfilling its lease.

Cox said the subject of Wilson's work will eventually be publicly known.