Garfield Co Sheriff says he doesn't have money to pay jail's medical tab

Tuesday, April 30th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ENID, Okla. (AP) _ The Garfield County sheriff said he doesn't have the money to pay the county jail's more than $100,000 medical tab.

Most of the costs resulted from one prisoner's hospital stay. Inmate Jesse Daniel Goldston spent several days in a coma at St. Mary's Regional Medical Center after he was assaulted by other inmates in January. The cost to the county exceeded $78,000.

Sheriff Bill Winchester said Monday he doesn't have enough money in his budget for the hospital bill, which he said is mostly attributable to inmate assaults.

St. Mary's could get payment by suing the county, Garfield County Commissioner Wendell Vencl said.

``It may boil down to litigation on their part to recover it,'' Vencl said.

The issue of medical bills will be more thoroughly discussed when county commissioners meet in executive session next week with a representative from the district attorney's office, Vencl said.

Winchester said he wasn't sure how to handle Goldston's medical bills because of Goldston's pending litigation against the county.

Goldston filed a tort claim against the county last month, alleging his civil rights were violated. He also filed a federal class action suit seeking to close the jail because it violates inmates' rights.

No hearings have been scheduled on Goldston's lawsuit, and no charges have been filed in his assault. Winchester said Goldston wouldn't talk to investigators.

Even with his financial problems, Winchester said hospital officials still want to get paid.

``They keep calling me and hounding me for the money,'' he said.

In addition to medical costs, the sheriff needs to find money to continue housing inmates in other county jails to relieve overcrowding at his own 76-bed facility.