The federal government filed suit Friday against the Tooele County Commission to recover money the county was given in 1967 to expand Tooele Valley Hospital.

The U.S. District Court complaint seeks payment of $32,128, plus interest, as recovery of funds the county received from the Department of Health and Human Services under the Public Health Service Act.Tooele County was given $131,202 by the government 24 years ago to expand and remodel the hospital. But under the law, the government was entitled to recover a certain amount of funding if the hospital was sold or transferred.

In July 1985, the complaint said, commissioners leased the facility to Westworld Community Healthcare Inc., a private operator. A year later, the Public Health Service of HHS determined it could recover $50,260 from the county, and a 36-month payment schedule was agreed upon.

Fourteen payments eventually were made, the last one in December 1987. In June 1989, the hospital sent the Public Health Service a check for $1,000.

"No further payments have been made since that time," according to the suit, which said demands for payment to the county have been refused.

County Attorney Ronald Elton was out of town Friday and could not be reached for comment. Commissioner Edwin St. Clair said he was unaware of the suit and did not know the history of the issue.

But he recalled that Westworld filed for bankruptcy several years ago and the county reassumed control of the hospital, although it is now administered by a special health service district.

The changes occurred about the same time the last payment was made to HHS, St. Clair said, and the lawsuit could be the result of a miscommunication.

"That would be my guess," he said. "We're good about paying our bills."