I-TEAM: IRS tax records show Wellstar’s top execs make millions

Published: Jun. 27, 2023 at 7:29 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Wellstar is a nonprofit, so their tax filings are public record. Our I-TEAM combed through them and found Wellstar pays its top executives millions of dollars in salaries each year.

When Atlanta Medical Center shut its doors, Wellstar pointed to decreasing revenue and increasing costs, but Georgia State Sen. Nan Orrock says she’s not buying it. The Democrat represents District 36, which included Fulton County. Orrock spoke to the I-TEAM Tuesday via Zoom.

“I would be in Augusta, although I’m at a long-planned family reunion out-of-state.” Otherwise, she says she would have shared her words of warning in person.

“Be very, very careful in Augusta,” she said.

She tells the I-TEAM she’s filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, asking the agency to investigate if Wellstar violated the Civil Rights Act.


“They have 10 hospitals in the state. They closed down the two hospitals that have majority black populations that they serve,” said Orrock.

Instead, she believes this deal is attractive to Wellstar because of the brand-new hospital AU Health is building in Columbia County.

She guesses it could be very lucrative to Wellstar and wonders if the nonprofit was making a “business” decision. She hopes leaders make sure the plan will protect all patients in our area.

“Let’s be very sure that they are in a tightly a contract that binds them tightly to be responsible to all the populations- that they’re that that hospital system serves not just the ones that are in the suburban Columbia County that are, you know, overwhelmingly white and well insured,” she said.

The I-TEAM also followed the money when it came to top executives.

The latest tax filings show Candice Saunders, the president and CEO of Wellstar, had a salary of almost $2.5 million with almost $84,000 in “estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations.”

The form lists Anthony Budzinski, the executive vice president and chief financial officer, netted almost a million and a half. Including the extra compensation, each one of the top 25 executives made more than half a million dollars each in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021. That is the last year Wellstar’s IRS forms are publicly posted.

Orrock raises questions if the IRS will continue to look at Wellstar as a nonprofit.

Meredith Anderson: “What would happen if the IRS were to pull Wellstar’s 501(c)(3) status and this deal went through? Does it make this deal crumble?”

Orrock: “That’s a great question, Meredith. And it does. It’s why the Attorney General should be applying a very, very sharp eye and scrutinizing this deal. Because there are these liabilities out there.”

The I-TEAM has a lot more digging to do on these complaints Orrock was talking about as well as this deal as a whole. We’ll keep a close eye on it for you.