News

Suit claims OMC improperly removed ‘infrastructure’ from leased facility

by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
Sequim Gazette

A lawsuit filed in late February claims Olympic Medical Center is in “breach of contract” after dismantling and removing a medical imaging facility from a leased property in Sequim.

 

The suit, filed by the building’s owner, says OMC’s action “was contrary to the express terms of the lease … and (OMC) did this in order to give itself the monopoly on medical imaging services in the Sequim-Port Angeles area.”

 

Eric Bonner, owner of Bonner Investments, LLC, filed the suit. The office is located at 500 W. Fir St. in Sequim.

 

Bonner said the facility in Sequim was custom-built as a medical imaging facility. The former tenants, Peninsula Medical Imaging, occupied the facility for more than three-and-a-half years, performing CT scans, MRI scans and certain types of nuclear medicine.

 

OMC took over the lease “about 15 months ago,” Bonner said, and “almost immediately started gearing the business down,” while pointing patients to existing OMC facilities.

 

When OMC recently departed the facility, they removed what Bonner calls the “imaging infrastructure.”

“We have no problem with them taking the equipment,” he said. But Bonner said despite his repeated protests, OMC also removed the specialty doors and windows, the high-voltage 800-amp service, and the radiation shielding in the walls.

 

“Even the conduit, wiring and breaker boxes,” he said.

 

Regarding his Sequim investment, Bonner said, “We purchased an imaging building.”

 

The building was designed for that purpose, he said, “with lots of bathrooms, changing rooms and large rooms” that could hold the massive equipment.

 

Bonner said he’d heard suggestions that OMC removed the infrastructure to ensure no one could move in and compete for imaging business. “That’s not substantiated,” he said, “but they removed the cabinets and fixtures to get into the walls to get that stuff. Why else would they do that?”

 

Rhonda Curry, OMC’s assistant administrator for strategic development, called the allegation “ridiculous. OMC removed only the tenant improvements we purchased — after offering to sell them to Bonner — and left the building in immaculate condition. Anyone can operate a free-standing imaging center there, just as both Dr. Fishman and OMC did, by purchasing the equipment needed to do so.”

 

Curry added that “OMC continues to receive national awards for low charges and reinvestment back into the community.”

 

Bonner said he has been advised by his attorney to refrain from talking about the financial aspects of the suit but said he anticipates his company will seek compensation for both the removed infrastructure and for lost revenue.

The backstory

The lawsuit further says the dispute has been ongoing since July 6, 2010, when OMC Chief Financial Officer Julie Rukstad informed Bonner of the center’s plan to remove all of the equipment and infrastructure related to imaging operations and “to leave the space as a professional office building space.”

 

Bonner says he replied with an e-mail, telling OMC “we have some significant differences to resolve” regarding the removal of the infrastructure. He also noted that remodeling already had taken place without his approval. In his e-mail, Bonner wrote, “I need to make clear that you understand any construction/remodeling work requires approval of the landlord per the lease agreement.”

 

OMC attorney Craig Miller followed up with a letter to Bonner’s attorney, saying “it is of critical importance to know that these improvements were paid for by PMI, and not by the landlord,” at a cost to PMI of “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

 

“After the purchase, OMC chose to move PMI’s assets to a different operational location,” he wrote.

 

Curry said, “OMC removed only the tenant improvements that we purchased. All tenant improvements were paid for by the previous owner, Dr. Mike Fishman, and were paid for by OMC as part of the purchase. These tenant improvements were offered to Mr. Bonner to purchase before OMC removed them. Mr. Bonner wanted to assume, for free, hundreds of thousands of dollars in tenant improvements.

Public assets cannot be given to a private investor,” Curry concluded.

 

Bonner Investments, LLC, is based in Utah.

 


Reach Mark Couhig at mcouhig@sequimgazette.com.


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