Brooks chokes up testifying about hospital gift
Saturday, January 21, 2012
CLAREMORE, Okla. (AP) — Country singer Garth Brooks told jurors Friday that he believed he had a “done deal” to honor his late mother with a women’s health center in his Oklahoma hometown, and said he still doesn’t understand how he received nothing for a $500,000 gift.
Brooks is suing Integris Canadian Valley Regional Hospital in Yukon, accusing it and its president of reneging on a pledge to build the center and name it after his mother, Colleen, who died of cancer in 1999. The center was never built, and Brooks wants his money back, plus punitive damages.
In tearful testimony, Brooks said he thought he had a solid agreement with the hospital’s president, James Moore. Brooks said Moore initially suggested putting his mother’s name on an intensive care unit, and when Brooks said that wouldn’t fit her image, Moore suggested a women’s center.
“I jumped all over it,” Brooks told jurors. “It’s my mom. My mom was pregnant as a teenager. She had a rough start. She wanted to help every kid out there.”
Brooks said he gave $500,000 to the hospital anonymously, which he said was his custom when giving to charities. The singer said he, his family and the hospital wanted to keep things quiet until a ribbon-cutting ceremony to announce the center.
He was eventually shown architectural drawings of a proposed center bearing his mother’s name. “That’s why I thought it was a win-win for everybody,” Brooks said.
But nothing happened. The center was never build and his mother’s name wasn’t attached to anything.
“How this thing went wrong, I don’t know,” Brooks testified.
“I’m the last of six kids. I was her favorite,” Brooks added. “She was my buddy. I was her biggest fan. She was a pistol. All of the parties were at her house. She was just a doll. If anybody met her, (they) would have gotten to love her.”
Moore testified earlier this week that a women’s center was not among the hospital’s plans, though Brooks testified Friday that Moore never told him that while they were negotiating a gift.
The singer donated the money in 2005. Three years later, he exchanged emails with Moore after the hospital president wrote saying the money would be used to help fund new construction, Brooks said.
“As nicely as I can, I’m trying to give him an opportunity to say why he’s spending the money and there’s no women’s center going up,” Brooks testified.
Brooks said he sent his accountant to investigate, but that nothing came from the ongoing correspondence.
By March 2009, he’d asked the hospital to either refund his money or give it to another charity. In September 2009, Brooks sued.
“I thought this was going to be mom’s chance to bring a women’s center to my hometown,” Brooks testified.
Brooks’ accountant, Cheryl Harris, testified earlier Friday that she wasn’t aware of any conditions on Brooks’ donation, which was listed as a tax deduction. Asked by Integris lawyer Terry Thomas how she believed the money would be used, she said, “He didn’t receive anything physical.”