DOJ raises questions about Garner nurse-staff deal

By Patsy R. Brumfield

Daily Journal

Batesville businessman Lee Garner faces new questions about his nurse-staffing business, even after a 2012 conviction was thrown out by the trial’s presiding judge.

His business, On-Call Staffing, is under investigation by federal authorities over allegations of “potentially improper arrangements” it had with Friendship Private Duty Inc. in Tennessee for private duty nursing to Friendship’s patients, U.S. District Court documents show.

“Lee Garner has not broken the law in any way and this is nothing more than a witch hunt,” said his attorney, Christi R. McCoy of Oxford.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in Washington is asking the Oxford-based court to force On-Call’s corporate representative to be questioned about whether the business submitted false or fraudulent claims to federally funded healthcare programs for private duty nursing care.

Garner, a former University of Mississippi star football player, was an On-Call director for a time, although the company listed his name-sake son as its president. Garner was convicted in 2012 on four federal counts connected with a wider kickback scheme.

However, Senior District Judge Neal B. Biggers Jr. threw out his conviction, saying the man to whom Garner made payments to ensure his timely payment for services to Tri-Lakes Medical Center in Batesville was not in a position to make staffing decisions to favor Garner.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office appealed Biggers’ decision and others related to the case to the 5th Circuit.

patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com