Aurora couple sues UCHealth over CORA request by socialist group; claims conflicts of interest tied to Colorado Rockies owner

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AURORA | An Aurora couple has sued UCHealth and the University of Colorado Hospital Authority in an effort to compel the healthcare network to produce records requested under the Colorado Open Records Act, according to documents filed in Adams County District Court Wednesday.

Represented by Denver attorney Jason Legg, Aurora residents Alexander Koch and Emily Coday filed a lawsuit on May 22 in which they claim the Aurora-based hospital network’s brass, namely co-owner of the Colorado Rockies Richard Monfort, has engaged in multiple conflicts of interest. 

Legg, Koch and Coday are members of the Denver chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, a non-profit advocacy organization that works to promote socialist policies, according to the group’s website.

The local chapter of the socialist group has “pursued an investigation” into the healthcare organization and the University of Colorado Authority, the quasi-governmental board that oversees the operation of the nonprofit system, according to the suit. The plaintiffs are attempting to shine light on the hospital organization’s “profit-seeking business model.”

The hospital network authority reported about $435 million in profits in 2018, according to the lawsuit.

In 2018, UCHealth also provided $359 million in “uncompensated care” and contributed $854 million in “community benefits,” according to Dan Weaver, spokesman for UCHealth.

During the course of their investigation, the local socialist collective issued the healthcare organization a records request asking for an accounting of any money awarded from the hospital network or its authority to the Colorado Rockies, Denver Broncos and the teams’ employees in the past five years, according to Legg, who works for the Denver law firm Cadiz Law.

In the suit, the plaintiffs assert there are extensive conflicts of interest between Rockies co-owner Monfort in his roles as chairman of the board for UCHealth, and board member of the network’s authority. They claim the impropriety stems from the hospital network’s advertising with the local professional baseball team. 

“Mr. Monfort has a conflict of interest when the business of the Rockies and UHCA or UCHealth intersect,” according to the suit. “Such an intersection would provide ripe opportunity for Mr. Monfort to pad his own pockets and is something the public has an obvious interest in overseeing.”

The suit claims Monfort’s connections have not been disclosed, which is required by state law. 

In an email, Weaver said Monfort has recused himself from all board votes concerning the Rockies.

“Even though Richard Monfort has never voted on a contract that involves the Colorado Rockies, he has disclosed that relationship to the board and recused himself from voting on any matters involving the Colorado Rockies,” Weaver wrote. “In addition, his relationship with the Colorado Rockies is prominently disclosed on our website, listed within both UCHealth and UCHA board member information.”

The plaintiffs are asking for a court order requiring the hospital network to demonstrate why it does not have to produce the documents requested through a state open records act query on Feb. 11. The healthcare group provided “some” of the requested documents on March 8, but claimed it was exempt from producing the rest of the records as they qualify as “trade secrets, privileged information, and confidential commercial…data,” according to the lawsuit.

Weaver said UCHealth provided the network’s full financials to the requestors, but is exempt from sharing private contracts with outside groups.

Earlier this year, we received several CORA requests for financial information,” he wrote. “We provided all requested open record documents to the requestor including our full audited financials, which are already available and posted on a public website. Some of the requested documents, including confidential contracts with external organizations, are not public records or are owned by UCHealth, which is not subject to CORA.”

Steve Zansberg, a media attorney for national law firm Ballard Spahr, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the suit.

Weaver added that UCHealth is a nonprofit organization, and the University of Colorado Hospital was created by the Colorado Legislature. Neither entity receives money from the state general fund, he wrote.

Coday and Koch have a personal connection to the hospital group, according to the suit, as Coday suffers from chronic pain and owes “substantial sums” to the organization for care she’s received there. 

“The stress that gives rise to is omnipresent in the lives of both her and her partner, Alex, casting a shadow over their futures,” according to the lawsuit. “The stories of millions of people like (Coday) who have been driven into medical bankruptcy or away from seeking needed care or medicine that they can’t afford have become all too familiar to the public.”