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Asheville Watchdog

The Asheville Citizen-Times Has Stopped Carrying Our Articles

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Just over two years ago, Asheville Watchdog began its mission of bringing to the citizens of Asheville fair, factual, and reliable in-depth news stories about local government, institutions, issues, and people. And we’ve been doing that ever since.

Rather than compete with local media, we seek to complement and expand the critical services they provide. For this reason we have always offered, free of charge, all of our articles to The Asheville Citizen Times, Blue Ridge Public Radio, Mountain Xpress, and other local publications.

Three months ago, The Asheville Citizen Times (which is owned by Gannett Co., Inc., a subscription-led digitally focused media and marketing solution company that owns hundreds of other media outlets in 46 states across the country) made the decision to stop publishing our articles.

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The Watchdog welcomes 2 to news team

Asheville Watchdog proudly welcomes reporter Scott Carroll and engagement editor John Shore to our news team.

Scott Carroll, a Report for America corps member, will join Asheville Watchdog June 1 to cover reparations, homelessness, and social justice issues.

An accomplished newspaper reporter and editor, Carroll comes to Asheville from The News-Review in Roseburg, Oregon, where he won five first-place awards in the 2021 Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association contest, including Best Writer and Best Story.

Before that, Carroll worked for 17 years at The Sarasota (Florida) Herald-Tribune. As the Herald-Tribune’s projects editor, his reporting teams won awards from numerous organizations and publications, including Editor & Publisher, Associated Press, American Society of News Editors, Society of Features Journalism, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors,

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The Fall and Rise and Fall of Madison Cawthorn

From “douche crew” leader to Congress to late-night punch line

Before the luxury travel, before the payroll padding at taxpayer expense, before the sexually suggestive photos and social-media messaging, they were the “douche crew,” the name 20-year-old Madison Cawthorn gave to himself and his buddies. 

Cawthorn assembled his circle of friends as a student at Patrick Henry College in northern Virginia in the fall of 2016, and he remains at the center of its successor pack as the high-profile, far-right, Trump-embraced congressman representing North Carolina’s 11th District, which covers most of the state’s western mountain counties.

Cawthorn was “the ringleader of a cohort of, let’s be honest, rich kids … a group of classmates known as ‘The Douche Crew’,” one schoolmate wrote on the website Medium. The tightly knit gang became well known on campus for frat-boy pranks, for parties at Cawthorn’s off-campus house,

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Watchdog Reporter Sally Kestin Wins National Journalism Award

Asheville Watchdog won a National Headliner Award honoring the best journalism in the United States in 2021.

Sally Kestin

Equity Erased, a five-part investigative series by reporter Sally Kestin, won third place in investigative reporting for online news sites. First place went to The Markup, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates how powerful institutions use technology to change society. The Better Government Association, an Illinois-based watchdog, won second place.

Equity Erased documented how Buncombe County homeowners, many of them elderly and/or Black, lost years and sometimes generations of equity to real estate investor Robert Perry Tucker II. An associate, Lisa K. Roberts, was charged in February with nine felony counts of notarizing an action by fraud or forgery. Her case is pending.

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Angered and Dissatisfied, Some Mission Patients Seek Healthcare Elsewhere

Hospital's formerly stellar reputation attracted people to region

They chose Asheville to live out their retirement years, drawn to the area not just for the mountains, the food, and the culture, but also for the safety net of a healthcare system considered one of the best in the country.

The flagship Mission Hospital provided a level of care that helped put Asheville on national lists as one of the top places to retire. One in five Buncombe County residents is now 65 or older. As recently as 2018, for the sixth time in the previous seven years, Mission Health was named one of the nation’s Top 15 Health Systems by IBM Watson Health.

But also in 2018, in a surprise decision, Mission’s board of directors voted to sell the successful nonprofit to HCA Healthcare — the largest for-profit hospital chain in the U.S., with a reputation for cost-cutting and skimping on staff.

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Our Man in Congress: Cawthorn Races From Reckless to a Possible Reckoning

Outrageous comments get him publicity and money, but traffic citations might land him in jail.

There is sexual perversion, drug use among GOP colleagues, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) tells interviewer

It seems only yesterday that Congressman Madison Cawthorn’s most newsworthy achievements were his citations for repeatedly violating motor-vehicle laws, including “extreme speeding” while driving his father’s car with a revoked license.

Since the traffic citations came to light last month, the 26-year-old Republican from Hendersonville earned bipartisan rebukes in Congress for calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug” and Ukraine “incredibly evil” — charges that won him accolades on Russian state television.

He then told a right-wing YouTube channel host that unnamed Republican lawmakers in Washington “in their 60s and 70s” had invited him to “orgies” and that he had witnessed them snorting cocaine.

And on April 4 , he took to the House floor to lecture Speaker Nancy Pelosi — a grandmother of nine — on biology. “I never imagined that one of my sacred duties in this hallowed chamber would be explaining to the House Speaker the difference between a man and a woman,” Cawthorn announced.

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Mission Nurses Overburdened, Patients Suffer

‘Oh My God, I Never Expected to Have This Many Patients’

One nurse on a surgical floor at Mission Hospital reported “patients lying in stool for an unknown amount of time,” pain medications and insulin being administered late, and “irate family members.”

A nurse caring for the sickest patients on a surgical floor at Mission documented “delayed and missed medications due to RNs having 7-8 patients … Inadequate staffing led to patient fall.”

Still another nurse on an intensive care and cardiac care unit reported an “inability to care for critically ill patients at appropriate high level,” resulting in an increased risk of possibly serious harm to patients.

The alarming concerns were reported by nurses on forms known as Assignment Despite Objection (ADO), a formal complaint system developed by the labor union representing Mission nurses to document unsafe assignments that, in their professional judgment, put patients at risk. The forms are completed only after the nurses have informed their supervisors with no resolution.

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How Many Doctors Have Left Mission? HCA Won’t Say

Watchdog counts 223 departures since takeover in 2019

Two prominent physician groups quit the Mission Health system in the first two weeks of the year, the latest in an exodus from the hospital since its sale three years ago to for-profit HCA Healthcare.

The seven doctors at Asheville Ear, Nose & Throat “decided to no longer provide medical or surgical care at Mission Hospital or Asheville Surgery Center,” as of Jan. 1, they wrote in a letter to their patients.

Also on Jan. 1, the 10 surgeons at Carolina Spine & Neurosurgery Center parted ways with Mission and joined UNC Health’s Margaret R. Pardee Memorial Hospital in Hendersonville. They retain privileges to practice at Mission.

HCA declined repeated requests for the number of doctors who have left the Mission system since it took over in February 2019 and refuses to say how many doctors are on staff today,

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Attorney General’s Office Had ‘Great Concerns’ Mission-HCA Deal Was Rigged ‘From the Beginning’

2018 Memo Says “Deck Had Been Stacked” by Then-CEO

Then-CEO Ronald A. Paulus of Mission Health

The North Carolina attorney general’s office had “great concerns about how HCA was selected” as the purchaser of the Mission Health System, including that “the deck had been stacked in its favor from the beginning” by then-CEO Ronald A. Paulus and his advisor Philip D. Green, according to a 2018 internal document obtained by Asheville Watchdog.

“[W]ith no outside advice other than Phil Green,” whom the investigators wrote had an undisclosed “prior business relationship with HCA,” Mission Health’s board of directors decided not to issue requests for competitive bids or to hold an auction before agreeing to sell Asheville’s flagship hospital system to HCA Healthcare for $1.5 billion, according to the document, prepared in advance of a meeting between Department of Justice lawyers and HCA representatives on Oct. 30, 2018.

Instead, as Paulus “coached HCA behind the scenes on how to best present its case to the Mission Board,” the board invited only one other healthcare company — identified in other documents as Novant Health of Winston-Salem — to present a formal offer. 

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Search Warrant Ties Real Estate Investor to Criminal Probe

Computers, phones seized from Asheville woman's home

State and Buncombe County agents raided Lisa Roberts's house in Biltmore Park

The Asheville woman arrested earlier this month on notary fraud charges was engaged in “a pattern of illegal behavior,” according to a search warrant, and investigators obtained permission to search her home for links to real estate investor Robert Perry Tucker II.

The warrant authorized the seizure of “any documentation or correspondence” at Lisa K. Roberts’s Biltmore Park home involving Home Advocates and Limitless Outreach (HALO), Roberts’s nonprofit; Certified Funding Corporation and Asheville Holdings Company, two of Tucker’s companies; “or associated co-conspirators.”

The purpose, according to the warrant application, was to show Roberts, who is referred to by her married name, Roberts-Allen, “as a current and or past agent or someone who conducts real-estate transactions with and or for” Asheville Holdings or Certified Funding.

On the day the search warrant was served,

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