New TLHCD Board Majority Introduces Counsel, Files Suit

Visalia attorney Michael Lampe speaks to the Tulare Local Healthcare District’s Board of Directors on August 9. Tony Maldonado/Valley Voice

New lawsuits, new titles, and more changes — those were the main themes of the August 9 Tulare Local Healthcare District Board of Directors special meeting.

The meeting was called by Kevin Northcraft, Mike Jamaica and Senovia Gutierrez, all of whom were in attendance; fellow board members Linda Wilbourn, and Richard Torrez, along with Healthcare Conglomerate Associates (HCCA) CEO Benny Benzeevi, were absent.

Benzeevi had previously stated that the only official board meeting is the one scheduled for August 23, and that Gutierrez is not yet a certified board member.

The three-member group voted to appoint themselves to new roles on the board and to rescind a resolution that had allowed HCCA to provide quarterly, instead of monthly, financial reports.

HCCA’s Chief Financial Officer, Alan Germany, previously requested the switch, stating that it was a way to free up the accounting staff’s resources.

They also voted to request that HCCA staff provide reports on retirement, insurance and other funding, including the current status of those obligations.

“Many of you are aware of the — how can I say it politely — spiraling down of our issues with our hospital,” Northcraft said. “Many good times are ahead for our hospital and for our employees as well.”

The trio’s last move during public session was to request hospital staff to provide monthly reports of any investigations by state or public agencies, noting that some of the hospital’s plans of corrections for prior investigations already obligated the company to provide reports to the board about after-hours surgeries and potential safety violations.

“As you all are aware — we’ve received none of those reports, so this item is directed to HCCA to immediately comply with their commitments to state and federal agencies to submit those reports to the Governing Board, being the five of us,” Northcraft said.

New Attorneys, New Lawsuits

At the meeting, Jamaica introduced the new attorneys from the firm of McCormick Barstow, which the trio had voted to bring in as the District’s new legal firm.

Three from the firm were present: Mandy Jeffcoach, Niki Cunningham and Timothy Thompson.

They’ve hit the ground running — the board came back from closed session to announce that it chose to initiate a lawsuit after consulting its new counsel.

In a statement, the board said it would disclose the defendants and scope once the suit was filed and commenced, unless doing so would jeopardize any ability to serve the suit.

Reshuffle

Although only three members of the board were present, each nominated the other for positions on the board after a vote to remove the existing positions on the board.

By the end, Northcraft was elected the Chairman/President of the TLHCD Board, Jamaica the Vice-Chair, and Gutierrez took double duty as Secretary and Treasurer of the board.

“Normally those two positions are held by different people,” Northcraft said, “but in our case, at the current time, I would recommend that we select Senovia Gutierrez for both the secretary and treasurer’s position.”

Northcraft appointed Jamaica and Gutierrez to the board’s finance committee, but declined to make appointments to any other committees.

“We will defer the selection of other committees until we’ve had more opportunity to look into that and perhaps seek the input of our absent board members,” he said.

Change in Venue

The meeting was held at Tulare’s Masonic Temple, after the board previously moved to hold meetings at the Tulare City Hall, when available.

The change in venue came after some Tulare City Council members discussed reconsidering the policies allowing the district’s board to meet at Tulare City Hall, though it was not immediately clear whether the remarks were related.

Tulare City Councilmember Jose Sigala speaks at a Tulare Local Healthcare District meeting on August 9. Tony Maldonado/Valley Voice

Tulare City Councilmember Jose Sigala spoke during the hospital board meeting’s public comment section against any possible changes the council might make.

“I voted against it, but it’s coming to council in a future meeting. I want to make sure you guys keep an eye out now when that happens,” Sigala said. “Anyone who follows the rules, fills out the application, pays a fee, should be able to use the council chambers. I would encourage all of you to listen to the council meeting.”

The council voted to place an item on the agenda to discuss the issue at a future meeting, passing with a 4-1 vote, Sigala dissenting.

“If you’ve ever been in recent time to the meetings they have at their facility, they go pretty negative. Their last meeting at their own facility went very negative — to the point that where council members were getting threatened. I don’t think they should be allowed to have meetings here — especially if we have to kick up our own security,” Tulare Mayor Carlton Jones said at the City Council’s August 1 meeting.

“My position was – they have their own facilities, let them have their meetings, let them worry about their own security, and to protect our public and our library, they shouldn’t be allowed to have meetings in our chambers,” he said.

Tulare Vice-Mayor Maritsa Castellanoz agreed.

“It has gotten so bad that it’s really divided the city, and the last thing the city needs is to be pulled into this. I think that we really probably should put a rush on getting a policy together,” Castellanoz said.

Rob Hunt, the city’s director of Community Development, noted that the meetings would cause a hardship on staff as well.

“Meetings that go beyond 7pm cause a hardship on staff — I don’t have anybody past 7pm that understands all the technology and all of this,” Hunt said. “There are only a few people in the city — I can’t just have a building attendant in here.”

Jones explained his stance further.

“We recognize the types of meetings they were having in their own facilities, and they have facilities to have their own meetings. We recognize that. We saw them enticing and telling people to come to this meeting, to come have this public war,” Jones said . “It’s not about disagreeing with them. I agree with them. It’s not about taking a position — as long as you show up, and you’re respectful, and you don’t make threats, and you don’t create an environment where we have to boost up security, we’re fine with that. We’re talking about a group that did the exact opposite.”

Existing Lawsuits

Visalia attorney Mike Lampe spoke to the board about the recent suit filed against Dr. Benny Benzeevi, Dr. Rebecca Zulim and the Tulare Local Healthcare District.

“I want the district to know that the district has only been named because we determined that the district is an indispensible party,” Lampe said. “We’re actually trying to help the district — we’re trying to recover money from Dr. Benzeevi, Dr. Zulim and Mr. Greene that we think was improperly paid to Mr. Greene’s office, and the other law firm that was representing Zulim and Kumar.”

He also let board members know that they’ve got another suit headed their way, claiming that it was for nonpayment.

Lampe stated that he was trading emails with an opposing attorney in a separate case, and was told by the attorney, Donald Dunning of San Diego, that he’s representing a client filing suit against the hospital for nonpayment.

“Small world. The […] suit is to collect $160,000 from HCCA d/b/a Tulare Regional Medical for services rendered by a medical staffing company,” Lampe said, reading an email from Dunning.

Lampe is also representing Deanne Martin-Soares and Emily Yenigues in a suit against the district regarding alleged Public Records Act violations; that case will be headed to trial on September 11, Lampe said.

The Public Records Act suit will be heard by Hon. Judge Melinda Reed in Department 1 at 9am.

In Depth: Tulare Regional Medical Center

20 thoughts on “New TLHCD Board Majority Introduces Counsel, Files Suit

  1. I would like to thank the board chairman Mr Northcraft, the board vice chairman Mr Jamaica, and the board treasurer Mrs Gutierrez for their hard work. Our hospital should not be an instrument for Benzeevi to enrich himself to the tune of millions of dollars while the tower remains unfinished, and the hospital is mismanaged.
    Again, I thank the board president Mr Nothcraft and his colleagues.

  2. I’m sure, or at least you should be that even though Dr. Kumar has been removed from the governing board of the hospital he in no way ceases to have influence. He and Dr. Benzeevi will not lay down for these events. You’d had better brace yourself for the oncoming lawsuits that I have no doubt are being prepared at this very moment. Your names will be dragged through the muck and your integrity smeared. These men are being pushed away from the feed trough and they are angry.

    • I think the thief Benzeevi’s plan was to get millions of dollars in loans, use some of that money to run the hospital, some of it to finish the tower, and of course pocket the rest for himself. Then he would have continued to pronounce himself as the great savior of our hospital.
      However, as things have actually evolved, the thief Benzeevi will go down as one of the most incompetent and atrocious hospital CEO’s in California. The fact that he is not paying these vendors and the employees, indicates that the hospital is going to run out of money soon.

    • Kevin Northcraft, Mike Jamaica, and Senovia Gutierrez have already faced having their names dragged through the mud, their integrity smeared, and yet they are moving forward with transparency and accountability to return the hospital to the citizens of the hospital district. Threats continue against these board members, yet they are not deterred. Their families support them and are very proud of what they are doing for their community.

  3. Can’t believe that the Mayor, Carlton Jones is possessive about the council chambers. Does he not realize that it is a public building paid by public tax dollars. Sounds like he is playing politics for his buddy Kumar.

    Marista is another elected official with HCCA donations including her daughter being employed by HCCA. She doesn’t want the city being dragged in – news flash the hospital is very near it’s demise hopefully you will take off the blinders and see that. Everyone in the city should care, especially our city council.

    Thank you Valley Voice for the video coverage for those of us that couldn’t attend. Looks like the room had a lot of people. By the way Carlton, no security needed and numerous employees were there. Probably since Benny wasn’t there to call names or lie the meeting was extremely calm and respectful. Maybe you should try attending a few before you make up things that aren’t true.

      • You took the words right out of my mouth. Carlton has already shown he has picked sides by HIS actions. I hope he sees the light soon.
        The meeting was nice and civilized. It was wonderful to see people working together to get our hospital back on track.

  4. With the remark last night from a newly retired employee, she said that it looked like some of the money SHE contributed to her 401k WAS MISSING, she was going to have it looked at. Those 2 could be in a lot more trouble. I would like to applaud her and also head Dr(Radiologist) who stood up and said he and the other Dr’s reconginize Senovia as a seat board member and support them and are glad thing are moving forward. I also heard that a doctor just quit wirking at the clinic and will be suing for non payment of monies owed approx 40,000.

    • Stealing money from retirement accounts is a very very serious crime.

      Labor board takes such matters very seriously.

      Just like Al Capone was caught on tax evasion, not on killing people, perhaps it will be easier to get Benny the thief on these charges rather than killing patients.

  5. I’ve got news for Tulare’s Mayor and Vice-Mayor… TRMC is a large part of the “City”. Nice to know who we citizens can count on…..and we now know it is not the two of you. How cowardly the two of you sound. Citizens built this town not the council and citizens own that library not the council and citizens have the right to use that “public” building as long as the meetings meet the appropriate guidelines that are already set in place. If you are afraid then stay out of the kitchen, don’t go to the meetings, where ever they are held.

  6. Duane, head of medical imaging and ancillary services, is sitting right next to Dr Macaluso (unless my eyes deceive me), so it looks like everybody is starting to abandon the thief Benzeevi at this time.

  7. Kudo’s to you Barbara I was very bothered by their comments also, It belongs to the Citizens of Tulare. The sign on the entrance says Tulare Public Library we the taxpayers paid for it not HCCA !!

  8. Shame on Richard Torrez & Linda Wilbourn for not having courage to face their constituents without the guard of their master – Dr Parmod Kumar

  9. It is a low down dirty shame that the Nothing-to-Something Mayor of Tulare, who claims to be born and raised in Tulare, doesn’t see that hospital is a vital part of this town!!! Get off the Kumar train Carlton and WAKE UP! You’re failing the citizens of this town, just like your buddy Kumar. You’re the most unprofessional, disrespectful, unsuitable council person in the history of Tulare County.

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