UPDATED: HCCA to TRMC Board Majority: Cease. Desist. Prepare for Legal Action.

Tulare Local Healthcare District Board of Directors members Kevin Northcraft, Senovia Gutierrez and Mike Jamaica at an August 11 meeting. Tony Maldonado/Valley Voice

Officials with Healthcare Conglomerate Associates (HCCA) have made it clear that they’re not pleased with Tulare Local Healthcare District board members Kevin Northcraft, Mike Jamaica and Senovia Gutierrez’ string of special meetings. They’ve brought in the big guns to bring the point home.

The company has retained the services of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, a law firm headquartered in San Francisco; the firm sent the three a cease and desist letter Wednesday.

The letter tackles the issue of the two special meetings, one held July 27, and the most recent on August 9. Those may be meetings, but they’re not board meetings, says Dr. Benny Benzeevi, CEO of HCCA.

“[… T]here was no board meeting [Wednesday],” Benzeevi said. “The meeting that was held had no legal authority whatsoever. It’s not a matter of opinion, but rather, is clearly delineated by the law and practice.”

It also states that the three have “defamed and maligned [Dr. Benny Benzeevi and HCCA] without just cause, and with great damage to their reputations and commercial activities.”

“We write to discourage you from further such conduct, demand that you ‘cease and desist,’ and put you on notice of your responsibilities given the potential for litigation to which you may be a party,” Marshall B. Grossman, an attorney for Orrick, wrote.

Grossman has previously represented Mariah Carey, Apple Computer, Estée Lauder, and many other high profile clients. The Orrick firm was previously hired by the hospital district in May of 2016 as the hospital’s bond counsel.

The letter lays bare the position of HCCA, the company which oversees day-to-day operations of Tulare Regional Medical Center (TRMC), giving the three a crash-course history lesson, a reminder of the staggering breakup fee in the company’s contract with the district, and an overview of the hospital’s financial performance.

Put simply, the letter states that the company is the chief driver of the hospital’s success — and that the trio’s actions are undermining the Management Services Agreement, the contract governing the relationship between HCCA and the district.

“The threat of newly elected members of the Board to dishonor the current HCCA contract undermines the ability of HCCA to perform its management function under the terms of the MSA and poisons the environment within which the Hospital must function,” the letter reads, “all to the detriment of the community. A unilateral termination of the MSA is a threat that the District will breach the MSA by disavowing it.”

Northcraft is taking the letter in stride.

“This is the sixth bogus claim in attempting to confuse and delay the properly seated Hospital board. Like the previous attempts, it is in opposition to the democratic process and the American system of government, and was unsuccessful,” he said.

Accountability Group Responds

The letter takes the three — and the Citizens for Hospital Accountability group, which has supported their election bids — to task for alleged defamatory statements, citing specific statements by each.

The letter claims that the Hospital Accountability group published Benzeevi’s personal cell phone number on their page, leading him to receive threatening phone calls “from unknown third parties.”
“The listing of our client’s private cell phone numbers in your postings, if such exists, and the like must be ceased now,” the letter reads.

The group fired back on August 13.

“Let’s face it Benny — the law is not your friend,” the statement reads.

“Don’t you remember when you sent out a campaign flyer during Measure I that printed what you claimed was your personal number and told everyone to call you with their questions,” the statement continues, including a scan of one such flyer. “Was this offer only good when you wanted our money?”

Board Members Respond

Among other actions, the letter states that Northcraft “stated at a public board meeting that HCCA was a ‘horrible failure at completing the tower,’” “[sent an] election mailer urging the District to ‘renegotiate or throw out the current HCCA contract,’” and republished a post from the accountability group stating the contract had “brought our hospital to its current financial ruin.”

“I particularly enjoyed the claim that I ‘defamed’ anyone by saying HCCA’s attempt to finish and open the tower was a horrible failure. Isn’t the truth a suitable defense?,” Northcraft said in response.

It states that Gutierrez “has not once approached HCCA or the hospital to obtain any information” and has posted on Facebook “referring to [the] need to ‘get rid of HCCA.’”

“It is incredible unbelievable how they dare of  sending a letter accusing us of ‘defamation and harassment’ when they are precisely those who defamed and slandered without any cause and causing much damage to my reputation,” Gutierrez said. “They used a very dirty campaign at the point that they put my face in the body of a dog being embraced by one of the doctors with whom they (HCCA and Kumar) have had problems in the past.”

“Furthermore, they opened a web page www.draintulareswamp.com, this page was open with the only purpose of confusing to the community saying only lies manufactured by themselves,” she continued.

The letter also claims that Jamaica “refused to hear any information from the Hospital regarding the litigation with the previous medical staff leadership (admittedly aligned with him),” and that he “personally served a lawsuit filed against the District while purporting to act as a board member of the District.”

Jamaica did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication; this article will be updated when a response is received.

Outside Reaction

Since the Voice published the letter, there has been significant reaction in the newspaper’s comments on Facebook and online.

But one Tulare doctor stepped further.

Dr. Frank Macaluso, previously a founding member of the hospital’s new Medical Executive Committee, resigned his positions in protest of the letter.

Macaluso told the Voice his position could be best summed up as “don’t mess with my democracy.”

“Effective immediately I have resigned from the Medical Executive Committee at TRMC,” a letter from Macaluso to his fellow members of the MEC reads.

“My resignation is in protest of a new lawsuit filed by HCCA against the Hospital Board of Tulare Local Health Care District. I’m happy to continue participating in my other hospital committees,” it continues. “GO DEMOCRACY!”

Macaluso is still a member of the medical staff.

He said the same at an August 9 meeting of hospital board members.

“Myself and other members of the medical staff fully welcome Ms. Gutierrez as a member of the board,” Macaluso said. “Anyone who doesn’t recognize her as a board member, just has got to get real.”

“She’s been sworn in, she’s here at the board meeting, you have the quorum,” Macaluso said.

Financing The Divorce

In the letter, Grossman asks: what district assets do the three plan to sell to meet the contract’s required termination fee?

That fee starts at $70,000 per month, increased by the Consumer Price Index, then multiplied by the number of months remaining in the contract (limited up to 120), then “discounted to its present value using the discount rate of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco at the time of termination plus one percent.”

Put simply: it’s an upward of $8.4m divorce settlement.

Any separation would leave an independent, or alternatively-allied, TRMC without any staff: the contract mandates the hospital not solicit its existing staff members for employment for a period of two years after any separation. The terms of the contract transferred all employees of the hospital to HCCA.

While the hospital may pay HCCA for employees’ wages, the hospital can not rehire any employee provided to the hospital by HCCA. This includes employees that may have started with TRMC and were later transferred to HCCA.

Gearing Up for Action

The letter finally puts the three members on notice: they need to start preserving documents, emails, and files, both digital and physical — with their staples and paperclips attached, too.

“Given the likelihood of litigation, we call your attention to the following obligations which we insist be strictly enforced by you and by the district,” Grossman states. “There are consequences which your lawyer, whoever he or she may be, will be familiar.”

“The actions taken by the individuals involved are illegal, are harmful to the business of the District, and each of them individually may have exposed themselves to substantial civil liabilities as well as potential criminal liability for falsely portraying themselves as a governmental entity,” Benzeevi told the Voice. “Rest assured that all avenues available under the law will be pursued aggressively by the appropriate authorities.”

The full letter is available below.

In Depth: Tulare Regional Medical Center

40 thoughts on “UPDATED: HCCA to TRMC Board Majority: Cease. Desist. Prepare for Legal Action.

  1. Dr. Benzeevi’s argument that Senovia Gutierrez isn’t a board member of the hospital district until he says she’s a board member is getting pretty weak. Dr. Benzeevi is struggling with the fact that the citizens are taking back their hospital district and he’s not in control. Senovia Gutierrez, Mike Jamaica, and Kevin Northcraft are his worst nightmare. Three people that can’t be bought, with firm ethics, and a dedication to democracy and government run by the people.

  2. Him and his PR firm who made the NUMEROUS slanderous videos, campaign flyers/mailers for all 3 elections gives us just cause to file defamation on them.
    Hospital should just file bankruptcy reorganization fire HCCA and let their 10-15 million dollar penalty for breaking contract get in the line with all the other creditors. Because I am sure that creditor line up will be huge all BECAUSE HCCA didn’t know how to run a hospital, Kumar, Wilborn, Torres, Bell,Gadke should also be suited for dereliction of duty for all the unlawful stupid things they approve HCCA to do.
    HCCA just get out of Dodge you are not welcome here anymore

    • What goes around comes around…This would be Karma planning an extended stay for Benzeevi and his clan as this is what he has done with Southern Inyo Hospital. Lets just stay in Bankruptcy cause we don’t have to pay any payments and can say we have improved the Hospital (that just needed a sizable loan to keep functioning).

      Tulare should look at Chapter 9 as HCCA has financially ruined Tulare hospital by paying their extravagant salaries, and putting patient care on the back burner.
      You can’t successfully run a Hospital that provides sub-standard care.

      Let them take their ticket number in line for payment!!

  3. Stay strong Board Majority! Anyone who can see, read, and comprehend basic English knows that his threat is a CROCK OF CRAP!!!!!!!! The slander has come solely from the accuser and you three are safe! Anyone can see that. The crook is just a big angry crybaby because he’s lost control! He’ll lose in the end and the end can’t come soon enough. #TulareStrong #TakingBackOURHospital

  4. How can we just get rid of this cancer forever? These adults are acting like children.. Unbelievable that this has gone on so long. HCCA you are not welcome here any longer.. Get out

  5. Exactly what does it take to convince Benzeevi that he is through, that Tulareans are sick of his so called leadership. Two thirds of the community voted against his $55M Bond, two thirds of the community voted Bell and Gadke out of office and Eighty one percent of the community voted to recall Kumar. We don’t like you Benzeevi and we don’t want you associated with our hospital.

  6. Benny Boy,

    Your lack of performance is your own. You were given a blank check by a board that was incompetent to allow the terms they did, especially for someone with no skills. You have operated the place into the ground, the 3 new board members didn’t do that – you need to own it. Your lack of skills and arrogance have done this.

    Go away!

  7. The law firm of McCormick Barstow out of Fresno is an outstanding law firm. If anyone can cut through all the crap that Benzeevi/HCCA lawyers drew up in regards to TRMC’s contract I would bet on them. I don’t know if current TRMC employees “personally” actually signed a no-complete contract with HCCA or if it was the Board signing that no-complete contract on the hospital’s behalf. It was a real dumbed down thing to do, especially for the Hospital Board of Directors. That said, I can see the working staff doing so if they were threatened with termination and had no other potential jobs lined up but boy howdy that was a real huge red flag for this hospital and the Board should have walked away from this corporate raider (meaning Benzeevi/HCCA). I don’t know how Bell, Gadke, Torrez, or Wilbourn can show their face in Tulare…..they have so sold out our hospital royally.

  8. Real culprits are Kumar, Bell, Torrez, Gadke & Wilbourn. Benny is just an opportunist.

    It is not a slander/defamation if it is TRUE. Case closed.

    The new administration is not allowed to solicit HCCA employees, but employees are welcome to willfully come to the new administration for job. They will sign a letter stating that they have come on their own without anyone soliciting them. Case closed you big ticket law firm.

    The fact that Benny brought in a heavy letter-pad law firm indicates that he is scared $hitless and wants to try more bullying. He knows he has no case otherwise he would have used his buddy Greene or some other reasonably priced firm nearby.

    Time to put Benny on notice that he is not complying with contract by failing to perform his duties and financial irregularities etc and it will be assumed he is not willing to honor it if he does not show compliance by X date and be considered null & void.

    • Greene is probably going to remain silent since the 1090 case was filed against him. All his actions scream conflicts and for personal gain. Wonder how much he is bleeding dry Southern Inyo in legal fees.

  9. We need to get Benny out like yesterday so that he is not able to take even one more penny out of hospital.

    Tell him out – and dont pay him any money. Let him fight court battle with his own money rather than hospital money. Court will find numerous violation of the contract and determine it null & void.

    Since he is an opportunist, he will not care to fight anyway. He will move onto some other gullible healthcare district. I feel so sorry for the South Inyo.

    Shame on Dr Parmod Kumar

    • Southern Inyo Hospital is broke…..NO CASH COW THERE!! HCCA will be over after this. They had presented to other hospitals and they have been told to get lost!!

  10. Benzveei’s intention from the start was to take control, funnel large sums back to his pockets then bankrupt hospital and then try to purchase it way below market rice and turn it into private hospital which doesn’t require an Emergency Room

    • I would say so far he and his buddy Kumar have done a good job at that. Want to bet that their checks haven’t bounced.

  11. Be careful all of you or else you just might get a letter for Benny’s attorneys threatening to sue you for defamation. He’s seemed to have threaten to sue everyone else.

  12. I bet that Benny the Israeli kid has not told Grossman that his actions –
    albeit unintentionally – have led to patients dying in hospital when they should not have.

    Otherwise Grossman would have told him “You are a disgrace to the Jewish community. I am not going to help you. Go find some other sleazebag. I have to face God. You are a Satan.”

  13. The entire community needs to clean out the trash. This is our city our taxes and our families who have been put at risk or death at this hospital. I hold the entire former board, Kumar, Benzeevi, Ostrum, Zulim and any other entity of people have backed these people solely responsible for the death of this hospital. Those who have turned their heads and let the community down are a disgrace and an embarrassment to our community. This frivolous lawsuit is a disgrace to all wonderful attorneys that have integrity.

    • Let’s not forget this all started with Shawn Boluki, the former CEO. He ran the hospital down to near closure while Kumar made sure he stayed employed. Then when finances were bad, Kumar, Bell, Gadke, Torres, and Wilborne brought him back to lose more money. Then waltzes in Benny, who with the backing of Kumar, has brought this hospital to its knees. They all need to be sued. A friend of mine said that Benny needs to be prosecuted for passing bad payroll checks.

  14. Hi, all, to clarify: HCCA has not filed suit against these board members yet. So far, this is a letter threatening action and advising them of a “likelihood of litigation.”

  15. They are just BULLIES. They see the writing on the wall. They remind me of the tenant you evict and they destroy everything before they leave

  16. Great comments, all dead-on. Parmod Kumar is the snake oil salesman and bought some gullible desperate doctors and people – Ostrum, Zulim, Makalusa (and a few others who quit soon enough) to prop hisself up with a new MEC. And of course Benny to save his Hillman cashcow from other buyers like Adventist who woulda shut it down for losing $1M per year. Pure greed, plain and simple. People put their trust and faith in doctors and that leaves individuals and whole communities vulnerable when one of them has bad intentions and doesnt know right from wrong.

  17. Boluki had his issues to be sure but he saw this coming too. He arranged the other bidders to come in to rescue including Fresno Community Hospital, go back and reread the minutes. He thought it was a joke when Kumar’s board flunkies chose Benny so to preserve Kumar’s looting of Hillman and lucrative contract with TRMC. Not to mention shielding him from the MEC who wanted to suspend him. Kumar needed Benny and viceversa. You can bet Boluki has a lot to say about it but he probably wont talk.

    • Spot on, Kumar has used the hospital in ways that many would never understand. Such as letting people stay in as an admission that doesn’t get paid. People love him for that but have no idea they have no reason to be there. He plays favorites in the community and has pandered to many and they believe he is doing it from the goodness of his heart. Like saving their lives by sending them down South for care. He has maintained control of the hospital by running other physicians away. Or another cost he has caused is his handing out of yearly medical leaves for his favorite staff. Nice paid vacation for some.

  18. Right now our priority #1 is to get these squatters out of our hospital.

    We cannot bring Dr Kumar to justice until we have access to documents that HCCA is sitting on.

  19. And the Mayor of Tulare Carlton Jones, has publicly backed Dr Kumar and still does. Carlton is now trying to keep the hospital board from renting the PUBLIC chamber at PUBLIC library. He says the citizens cause trouble and threaten people. All hear say, he has not been to a TRMC board mtg ever. Had he attend the last 2 without HCCA instigators he would see very peaceful, so obviously it not the citizens but HCCA and their clonies that are the problem. Carlton you may want to re read your statement on the city website. You need to represent the citizens and not your campaign contributors.

  20. 2 things forgotten….
    1. While TLHCD can not solicit or hire us current employees, we can certainly QUIT and then be rehired by TLHCD. So take that for data!!!

    2. All the contract states is the District can not break the contract per se. HOWEVER, it says nowhere that a SUSPENSION of a contract is not a relm of possibility. It further goes on to state profit is a factor for a good contract. But ANY REASONABLE COURT, after reviewing all financial records and vendors NOT PAID, NOT TO MENTION BOUNCED EMPLOYEE CHECKS, NON PAYMENT OF VENDORS AND DOCTORS FOR DAYS, WEEKS, OR MONTHS, would not have an issue voiding a contract and not paying HCCA anymore money.

    Bottom line, HCCA will be found out soon enough after McCormick and Barstow forensic review of financials and interviews with employees will not fair well. And trust me when I say this, nearly every employee would have no problem giving a deposition into the running of this hospital.
    The employees get the same rhetoric speeches from upper management saying everything is ok. ITS NOT OK TO DO WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!!!
    Ask these questions:
    Why can we not pay our bills on time?
    Why doesnt HCCA show the public the financials from HCCA? HCCA is entrusted with public money, and is required to show where money is going and what bills are being paid.
    The truth is where the money is and the source of who controls said monies.
    Finally, with the other businesses that Benzeevi has, the question stands, where is the money coming from for these newly formed businesses?
    The employees of HCCA are educated enough to know when behavior like this is wrong on all levels.

  21. It would behoove the current majority board to invest in a forensic audit of both the hospital and the new tower. We need to find the money trail. Bell,Gadke,wilbourn, Torres are dedicated drink the punch followers of Kumar.. Until that is done we will never know. I would like to see TRMC partner with KDDH and let them run the place properly. There are to many benefits to name here to get that to happen. It would help the citizens of the district from Searlimart to visalia and as wide as woodpile to Waukena .

  22. The new majority of the board is simply doing what they were elected to do. We may have to end up giving Benny the thief Benzeevi some money to facilitate his departure, but the sooner he goes, the sooner we can stop the bleeding and build a decent public hospital.

  23. Having worked for Community Medical Centers in Fresno, it is my strongly held opinion that we need Federal legislation to make it illegal to provide any government funds to any healthcare organization that does not have in place strong accountability to an outside third party organization chartered and empowered to investigate and remove all in leadership complicit in bullying, abusing, firing, discriminating against, or retaliating against those who report corruption, patient safety issues, ethics issues, legal issues, contract violations, fraud, and such. I think every exiting employee should be given an exit interview with that third party and that any employee having left the organization in the past should be given an open door to report past violations and retaliations. I believe they should be empowered and chartered with restoring employment to those who had been unjustly dismissed into a position of equal or higher position, should be protected from being forced to return to the management team who took action against them earlier, and that they should be given restitution for all illicit losses and have their status, seniority, and benefits restored in full.

    I also believe that those who engage in such cowardly, petty, infantile behavior as filing harassing and defaming restraining orders, free speech violating cease and desist notices, and illicit and harassing threats of frivolous litigation or who spend corporate funds on such illicit activity should be subject to firing and having their HR record stained and their actions documented and published if they are public figures so it will be hard for them to return to the same role and violate others in the same way ever again. And if crimes are committed, they should be called to account for those whether they are crimes of fraud, corruption, breach of contract, harassment, or involving any kinds of intimidation or taking advantage of ordinary people’s assumed lack of awareness of the law.

    For us as the public to put up with this kind of adolescent, corrupt, asinine, petty, cowardly, dishonest, bullying behavior is unforgivable. For the greater good of patients, employees, and society, we need such petty, power hungry charlatans and bullies and jerks to be ripped out of power and replaced by someone who has integrity and heart and competence.

    And this is true regardless of which health care organization. The notion that a corporation can hide from OSHA on the basis of being a non-profit or a privately owned corporation is unacceptable. And furthermore, the fact that regional centers may be the largest consumers of legal services does not give them a right to be able to depend on our courts to prostitute justice like a two bit whore giving favor to those with the money and power lest some judge end up on the operating table in a hospital with employees under the thumb of an unhappy administrator.

    Let the courts rule justly and make a just and honest administration happy rather than ruling corruptly and making a corrupt leadership happy.

  24. It is time for the new Board Majority to terminate HCCA and send Benny and Kumar packing. If Torres and Wilburn continue to miss meetings remove them. In most elected positions if you miss three consecutive unexcused meetings you are removed.

    I also was informed that even volunteers have been told not to discuss the Hospital, census or issues pretaining to HCCA. Talk about First Amendment violations!! This is America not North Korea!!

    Hold Bell, Gadke, Torres, Wilburn, and Kumar personally liable for the financial losses that have been incurred. Ignorance is no excuse they were suppose to represent the Citizens of Tulare. We are now indentured to a property tax for 30 years for what to benefit a for profit company.

  25. Benny and Kumar, you are in Tulare only to exploit our people. We are not the Palestinians. We are not the Untouchables. We are American citizens and we dont get pushed around. We stand up to bullies. That is what democracy is all about.

  26. Who’s footing the bill for this expensive LA law firm,? Is this another bill we have to pay as taxpayers? As I read the cease and desist letter, for sure many things were left out.
    One thing that was said is that we had about 1/2 dozen CFO’s in 7 years. Why was that? I know for a
    fact that we had some great
    qualified candidates that applied, BUT the board, both for the CEO
    positions and the CFO positions
    Elected to hire only Interim Administrative positions, why was that at the time we had qualified canadates?
    Well, now I might think it was because they didn’t want anyone getting to close to the books????

    We all wondered why they keep hiring only temporary Administrative staff at the time some of us were invited in the interview process.

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