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UPDATED: $800,000 consulting bill for El Paso Children’s raises questions

A new set of fees submitted for consulting at the bankrupt El Paso Children’s Hospital has ABC-7 and public officials asking questions about the amount – and the validity of some charges.

This latest bill from AlixPartners, or AP Services LLC, totals $795,483.87 for their work with El Paso Children’s Hospital, filed with the federal bankruptcy court the Thursday before Thanksgiving.

“The fees are pretty exorbitant, and frankly unbelievable,” said El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar.

Escobar said the county will likely file objections to these latest fees, which cover May 19 through the end of September, and the services of El Paso Children’s CEO and chief executive of AlixPartners Mark Herbers as well as four other bankruptcy administrators.

Escobar has serious questions about some of the charges. One in particular stands out.

On July 2, Herbers bills 1.6 hours, or $1,192, for going to a town hall meeting. But as ABC-7 reported, Herbers canceled that day, with his staff telling town hall organizer and city rep. Emma Acosta that Herbers had left early for the July 4 holiday.

“(Constituents) really wanted to talk to the CEO and hear that the children’s hospital is going to continue,” Acosta said in July.

“It’s just brazen,” Escobar said Sunday. “I think in some respects they probably think no-one’s ever going to look at the detail.”

Escobar said that while the county will contest the fees as they have throughout this process, the fees will only really stop if the joint bankruptcy plan is approved by the federal bankruptcy judge on Dec. 8.

“In the plan will be the request to have the old board turn the keys over to the new Children’s board on Jan. 8,” Escobar said. “And at that point they’re out of bankruptcy, they’re post-bankruptcy. The Herbers partners people go away, the Jackson-Walker people go away, and they essentially stop – all the money leaving the estate and going to them will stop.”

In response to ABC-7’s questions, El Paso Children’s sent this statement: “These town hall meetings are all internal meetings with medical staff, management and employees. Preparation for and attendance at these important meetings is part of Mr. Herbers’ role of overseeing the day-to-day operations of EPCH in conjunction with its bankruptcy case as well as operating EPCH. In addition, it is incorrect that Mr. Herbers billed time for a July 2 public town hall meeting that he did not attend. The 1.6 hours billed by Mr. Herbers on July 2, 2015 was for an employee town hall meeting held the morning of July 2, 2015.”

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