'We agreed,' Garth Brooks testifies about hospital deal
BY RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer
Saturday, January 21, 2012
1/21/12 at 7:31 AM
CLAREMORE - A sometimes emotional Garth Brooks testified Friday that he made a spoken agreement with a Yukon hospital CEO to name a proposed women's health center at the hospital after his late mother in exchange for a $500,000 gift.
"In my recollection, not only did I agree, we agreed," Brooks testified during a Rogers County civil jury trial about a telephone conversation he had with Integris Canadian Valley Regional Hospital President and CEO James Moore in early summer 2005.
The Tulsa-born Brooks, 49, sued Integris Rural Health Inc., in 2009, alleging that it reneged on a promise to name the women's health center after his mother, Colleen Brooks, in exchange for the country music star's $500,000 donation.
Colleen Brooks died of cancer in 1999.
A gallery that had been sparse when the trial began Tuesday swelled to more than 30 people by Friday afternoon as spectators tried to sneak a peak at the celebrity.
Brooks disputed earlier testimony from Moore, who told jurors that although the facility wanted to do something to honor Brooks' mother, no naming rights were associated with the women's center for the half-million-dollar gift.
Brooks donated the money anonymously in late December 2005, and Integris confirmed that it was his gift shortly afterward. To date, no new women's health center has been built with the money, which has not been spent, Moore has testified.
When Moore brought up the women's health center in the 2005 telephone conversation, Brooks testified, "I jumped all over it. My mom was pregnant as a teenager. My mom had a rough start. My mom wanted to help every kid out there."
At times using reading glasses to examine documents and occasionally gesturing toward Moore, Brooks testified that he was unaware then that the Yukon hospital had an existing women's center. Moore has testified that the pair did have conversations about naming rights with an existing facility.
"I thought this was one of the great gifts my mom was going to bring to Yukon, Okla.," Brooks told jurors.
The youngest of six children of Colleen and his father, who went by Troy or Raymond, Brooks began his time on the stand by talking about his background in his hometown of Yukon, where he lived from 1966 to 1983. Asked about his father, who died in March 2010, Brooks began to break up.
About his relationship with his mother, he testified, "I was her favorite. ... She was my buddy. I was her biggest fan. She was a pistol."
Documents shared this week with the jury have indicated that there was no written contract between Brooks and Integris on specific naming rights.
"I didn't feel there was a need to" have a contract, Brooks said in testifying on his giving practices.
"We give handshake deals every day on naming rights."
Moore and Brooks met at an Owasso restaurant in January 2007, at which time Moore offered what Brooks termed "the big ask": $15 million in exchange for naming the whole hospital after Colleen Brooks, he testified. A mock-up of the facility with her name on it was presented at that time, he testified.
Brooks said he passed on the $15 million offer, and in the months that followed, negotiations began to break down as he began to try to reaffirm the deal with Moore.
In March 2009, Brooks said, he learned for the first time that there was an existing women's center.
"At this point," he testified, "I'm not sure what we're talking about."
A letter from his Nashville, Tenn., attorney that same month asked Integris to either return his money or transfer it to another charity.
"My dad's not feeling well," Brooks testified that he told hospital officials at the time. "Give me the money. You have my word. We'll do something in Mom and Dad's name."
Integris replied with a letter in May 2009, declaring that, "There were no conditions on the gift at the time of transfer," evidence has shown.
Brooks recalled his reaction: It felt as if the hospital was saying, "You want your money? Sue us."
Brooks will return to the witness stand when the trial resumes Monday.
Original Print Headline: 'We agreed,' Brooks testifies about deal
Rhett Morgan 918-581-8395
Country music star Garth Brooks arrives Friday at the Rogers County Courthouse for proceedings in his civil lawsuit against the Yukon hospital.
Country music star Garth Brooks leaves for a lunch recess Friday during a civil trial at the Rogers County Courthouse in Claremore. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Country music star Garth Brooks arrives Friday at the Rogers County Courthouse for proceedings in his civil lawsuit against the Yukon hospital. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
James Moore, president and CEO of Integris Canadian Valley Regional Hospital, arrives for court Friday. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World