If Wellmont Health System changes ownership later this year, access to Wellmont’s private plane will not be part of the transaction. That’s because Wellmont says it recently sold its stake in that jet.
We first raised asked former Wellmont CEO Denny DeNarvaez about the plane back in June. Although the health system sold its share of the jet around the same time DeNarvaez abruptly resigned, spokesperson Jim Wozniak says the two were not connected.
“We no longer have any ownership in that plane,” Wozniak said in an email on September 15th. “We divested our interest about two weeks ago. We mentioned awhile back that we were open to opportunities to divest ourselves of the plane. An opportunity developed a few months ago that enabled us to go that route. As is the case with many transactions, this took a little while to finalize. The decision to divest ourselves of the plane had no connection to Denny’s resignation.”
DeNarvaez previously told us Wellmont was trying to sell its stake in the jet, but said at the time, no one really wanted partial ownership in a plane.
According to flight records from Flight Aware, we discovered the plane took six flights to St. Louis from the Tri-Cities over a five-month period earlier this year. Those trips occurred on Mondays and Thursdays and three of them occurred in one week alone, according to Flight Aware. Those six flights are more departures from TCRA to a single city than anywhere else during that time frame, according to the plane’s records on Flight Aware.
According to records filed with the Saint Louis County Property Assessor’s Office, the former CEO still owns property in St. Louis. In addition, a handful of other past and current top Wellmont executives have ties to St. Louis too, according to their biographies.
Wellmont Health System also has a professional relationship with a company there. According to published reports, Wellmont has had a business relationship with NAVVIS Healthways over the years, a consulting firm headquartered in St. Louis.
We’ve contacted representatives of NAVVIS about that relationship, but have yet to reach anyone.
We’ve also made repeated efforts to talk with DeNarvaez about the plane following her resignation. Last time we talked, three months before her departure, DeNarvaez answered our questions about Wellmont’s one-sixth ownership in the 1982 Westwind One.
“We’re sort of stuck with it until we can sell it,” she told us at the time.
She admitted spouses of board members and executives occasionally tagged along on trips and said those people reported the fringe benefit on their tax returns. She also assured us the plane was purely for business. She called it a cheaper, easier way to fly and said Wellmont rarely used it.
“It is not used for personal use, it is used for business use,” DeNarvaez said at the time. “The reality is it gives us access to the plane a couple times a month and that’s the only reason we have it.”
Wellmont turned down our requests for an interview for this story.
“Wellmont no longer has an ownership in the plane,” Wozniak reiterated in a September 16th email. “When we did, we issued a statement about it. That’s the only information we can provide about the plane.”
Wozniak is referencing a June statement from former Wellmont Board Chairman Buddy Scott, Jr. in response to our original story about the plane.
“The company has adopted policies governing the use of the plane and requires demonstrated benefit to the company,” Scott said as part of that statement. “Wellmont’s Board of Directors takes our organization’s stewardship seriously and ensures appropriate policies and procedures are in place to preserve sound business practices.”
“We appreciate your question, but there is nothing further we can provide beyond all the other information we have supplied you,” Wozniak said in reference to a follow-up question about the St. Louis trips.
We then provided specific details of the flights in question, including dates and times.
“Thank you for asking,” Wozniak said. “There is nothing more we can add than what we have already said.”
It’s worth mentioning again, up until recently, Wellmont was one of six owners of the jet. That means we can’t say with any certainty who was traveling when the plane was in the air. However, we can rule out those partial owners who say they did not travel to St. Louis.
Two of the other partial owners tell us, to their knowledge, their businesses did not use the plane for any flights to St. Louis during that time frame.
That leaves three other partial owners unaccounted for, which means it is possible another company flew to St. Louis.
We found the parent company of the Blountville-based aircraft. However, Jeff Benedict, HMV Aviation, LLC’s registered agent, would not answer our questions about the plane.
As we’ve previously reported, leading up to DeNarvaez’s departure, Wellmont called in a former Virginia Attorney General to conduct an internal review.
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