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January 19, 2012

Integris CEO denies deal to honor Brooks' mother

CLAREMORE — Although he expressed an intent to “honor the life” of country singer Garth Brooks’ mother, Integris President James Moore Wednesday categorically denied there was ever a deal to name a new women’s center in her name, as Brooks alleges in his breach-of-promise suit.

Moore, president of Integris Southwest Medical Center in Oklahoma City and Integris Canadian Valley in Yukon took the stand Wednesday as the first witness in the civil suit filed against the hospital.

Following a morning of opening statements — during which, attorneys for Brooks told jurors they would establish the relationship between Integris, largely via Moore, and Brooks, and attorneys for Integris advised jurors to “pay attention not to what was said, but what was done” — Moore took the stand, where he spent the rest of the day, giving an overview of the Integris/Brooks family relationship.

“The hospital (Integris) courted Brooks for a donation, deliberately and falsely claiming that it would build a new women’s center and named it after (Garth) Brooks’ mother, Colleen, with her named displayed ‘like the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles’,” said Lisa Riggs, Brooks attorney. “This never happened, and in fact, there is still no new women’s center (at Integris in Yukon) — the hospital knew Brooks was passionate about his mother and manipulated that fact to garner a sizable donation from Brooks, even trying to get more out of him than his initial $500,000 donation.”

On the stand, Moore testified that in 2001, the hospital was undergoing plans for an expansion and sought funding via several sources, including donors.

As part of the hospital’s planned expansion, a “20-year-plan” was devised, with several phases of renovations and construction specifics specified, of which, Moore testified the new women’s center was of a “low priority.”

Moore said there were numerous ideas discussed during “brainstorming sessions” as to how to interest Brooks (in making a donation to the hospital), among them, suggesting Brooks perform a concert in honor of his late mother.

“Mr. Brooks’ passion for his mother was well-known and we felt by honoring her in some way, we could get him involved, and establish a solid relationship between the Brooks family and the hospital,” Moore testified.

Contacting Brooks proved harder than anticipated, however, and Moore testified had to send a message to him by way of his father, whom they managed to reach via an Integris employee who was aquatinted with Colleen Brooks’ former hairdresser.

Moore’s testimony then recounted the history of how Integris began its solicitation of donations from (Garth) Brooks, first by involving his father, Raymond — even giving the senior Brooks a tour of the hospital and encouraging him to “mention it to (son) Garth — then to Garth himself, first through e-mails, then telephone calls and eventually lunch meetings.

During the various interactions with Brooks, Moore testified that various “naming opportunities” were presented to Brooks — including naming the hospital for Colleen Brooks in exchange for a $15 million donation — but at no point, was anything ever agreed upon or was it a “done deal,” as Brooks alleges.

“During your phone conversation with Mr. Brooks in mid-2005, it was never specified or agreed upon that you would name a new women’s center in honor of Brooks’ mother?” Brooks attorney Terry Thomas asked.

“No sir, it was not,” Moore testified. “That conversation lasted about a minute — we merely made lunch plans.”

“At no point, did you ever make a deal with Brooks about naming the women’s center in honor of his mother? You are categorically denying that?” Thomas asked.

“I am categorically denying that,” Moore testified.

Brooks did give the hospital a donation of $500,00, sent  from his bank in Nashville, Tenn., the use of which Moore said the hospital considered to be “unrestricted” as it was sent anonymously.

Throughout testimony, numerous exhibits — chiefly, copies of e-mails, letters, and inter-office memorandums — were shown to the jury, most of which were seen on documents without the Integris letterhead or bearing Moore’s signature.

“Why is this not signed or show the hospital’s letterhead?” Thomas asked.

“This is merely a draft — we do not have a copy of the actual document,” Moore testified.

“So, as a draft, this might not be the actual version which was sent (to Brooks) — is that a reasonable assumption to make?” Thomas asked.

“That could be considered a reasonable assumption,” Moore testified.

Following Brooks’ initial ($500,000) donation, Moore testified the hospital sought more funds from him — even suggesting to Brooks at one point that he make a contribution of $15 million in exchange for naming the hospital in honor of Colleen Brooks, but Brooks was unreceptive.

Following this, communications between the hospital and he (Brooks), became more infrequent, with Moore later “becoming concerned” that the relationship could be “deteriorating,” and he was “taken aback” when he received an e-mail from Brooks regarding naming the women’s center after his mother.

“Although we presented Mr. Brooks several naming opportunities (in connection to his donation and possible future donations), there had been no discussions as to what the money was actually going to be used for,” Moore testified.

Integris later heard from Brooks’ accountant and attorney, requesting the return of his donation, which the hospital did not, leading to the eventual filing of the suit by Brooks.

Moore testified that to date, Brooks’ donation has not been spent, but the women’s center Brooks expected to be named in honor of his mother, has not been built.

Testimony resumed this morning at 9:30 a.m.

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