Judge Denies Attempts to Seat Senovia Gutierrez, Force Document Production

Nothing will change immediately on the Tulare Local Healthcare District’s Board of Directors after a Monday morning hearing.

District board member Richard Torrez is still free to not recognize Senovia Gutierrez as a colleague — or to recognize her, if he so chooses. But the Hon. Judge Melinda Reed isn’t going to force his hand in either direction.

She denied various petitions filed by the Tulare Local Healthcare District and the Tulare County District Attorney’s office to force Torrez to recognize her, force Healthcare Conglomerate Associates (HCCA) to turn over financial documents, and force HCCA to submit any loan they may be seeking to the board for approval.

Those were denied on procedural issues, she stated, and the parties were free to address those issues and re-file their petitions.

The petitions cited “confusing and contradictory authority,” and did not join the district in the action, amongst other issues, she said.

She also revealed that at the same time the district attorney’s office was seeking a writ of mandate to force Torrez to recognize Gutierrez, the DA’s office was seeking a Quo Warranto petition that would seek the same outcome — forcing Torrez to recognize her — by threat of removing him from his position.

The Quo Warranto petition would require the consent of the California Attorney General’s office.

Arguments

A large group of lawyers attended to plead their cases, which were kicked to the Monday hearing after Reed stated on September 15 that she needed time to read new filings introduced.

Mandy Jeffcoach and Nikole Cunningham appeared from McCormick Barstow on behalf of the district, Trevor Holly on behalf of the district attorney’s office, and Dennis Mederos on behalf of Gutierrez.

Robert Welsh from the Baker Hostetler firm appeared representing Torrez, and Marshall Grossman appeared on behalf of HCCA.

Reed stated that she wasn’t sure why the district attorney’s office had filed for a writ of mandate to force Torrez to recognize Gutierrez when it had also filed for the Quo Warranto action.

The Quo Warranto process could take months, Holly explained, and a writ of mandate could achieve the same ends much more quickly.

“It is a matter of real urgency,” Holly said.

She also stated that the district attorney’s petition had other procedural issues, including not naming the district as a party in the suit, and not clearly citing any authority or precedent on where she could act to force Torrez to recognize Gutierrez.

Mederos also spoke forcefully in defense of the district attorney’s petition to force Gutierrez’ recognition.

Referring to statements that Greene sought independent counsel in coming to the opinion that Gutierrez needed to be recognized by the board before she could be seated, he claimed that the counsel Greene sought wasn’t impartial, because it was the same attorney which acted on Kumar’s behalf in sending a Brown Act violation notice to the board.

“They’ve taken the opinion of the ousted director’s attorney [Michael L. Allan],” Mederos said.

“We showed up [at the last meeting] and the doors were locked,” he said. “We have no indication that the same won’t take place.”

“They just refuse to recognize her,” he said. “We don’t live in Bolivia, we live in the United States of America.”

Welsh stated that wouldn’t be the case — the plan is to seat Gutierrez at the district’s next meeting on the 27th.

Reed noted that any special meetings of the board would need to be required to be called by three members of the board, and asked Welsh why the process couldn’t be fast-tracked by a special meeting; referring, specifically, to Torrez agreeing to the process of convening one.

“There’s a great deal of distress between the parties,” Welsh said, referring to the members of the board.

Holly stressed that the writ and Quo Warranto process are two separate items.

“The writ does not require the permission of the attorney general — we didn’t file this behind their backs,” he said, stating that the attorney general’s office was aware of the filing for a writ.

After arguments, Reed stated she hadn’t changed her mind, but reiterated she wasn’t denying them the ability to refile.

Reaction

“I’m delighted this part of the saga is over,” Grossman told the Voice after the hearing. “It’s regrettable so much taxpayer money continues to be spent on the district attorney and private attorneys.”

HCCA and Dr. Benny Benzeevi, its CEO, have accepted the results of the election, Grossman said. He also stated there was a larger issue in question — the funding of the legal battles currently in process against HCCA and the district.

“Who is financing the fees and costs of so many private lawyers and the district attorney’s office?” Grossman asked. “It’s highly unlikely that they are being paid by three newly elected members of the board.”

Grossman also stated that the recent election campaign had been filled with hate and slanderous comments, and that a full disclosure of the motivations behind those who financed the recent elections would serve as an “antiseptic.”

“We will get to the bottom of it,” he said.

Benzeevi stated that the issue will be resolved on the 27th, at the board’s next meeting.

“As we have seen time and time again, elements within our community continue to perpetuate false narratives about our hospital and cause great harm to our community,” Benzeevi told the Voice. “It is simply unfortunate that these people who claim to be proponents of the hospital continue to spend taxpayers’ money on frivolous and unsubstantiated claims.”

“Our decisions have always been in the best interests of the District and we always follow the rule of law,” he continued. “Unfortunately, we cannot say the same of others.”

The District Attorney’s office released a statement, saying that the office would “continue to defend democracy.”

“We filed the Petition for Writ of Mandate in hopes that the Court would settle the legal question as to what point in time does an elected board member, following a recall election, assume the powers and responsibilities of office. We did not file on the Board as a whole because they acknowledged the election results at an emergency meeting on August 9, 2017,” Dave Alavezos, Assistant District Attorney, wrote. “The only current board member who has failed to acknowledge those results is Mr. Richard Torres. Given Mr. Torres is the only person who has failed to comply with Election Code 15400 in his capacity as a board member, it is only he who we believe should be ordered to recognize the election results.”

Gutierrez’ attorney, Dennis Mederos, stated that to him, the issue is straightforward — Gutierrez was elected and sworn in, and complied with the mandated requirements to take her office.

Any interpretation of California Elections Code 15400, which requires the board announce a new board member, as anything other than ministerial is merely an attempt to confuse the public and an attempt to deny Gutierrez her seat on the board, he said.

“The confusion appears to go all the way to the bench, to the judge involved in the case,” he said.

In Depth: Tulare Regional Medical Center

23 thoughts on “Judge Denies Attempts to Seat Senovia Gutierrez, Force Document Production

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  1. Shouldn’t they have called in the Registrar of Voters……I understood that she had to be sworn in within 10 days or the board could claim the seat vacant and appoint someone of their choosing.

    • She was sworn-in within the correct time period. Not sure if it’s days from the election or days from when Registrar certifies result.

  2. We all need to contact Richard Torrez in district or out of district and let him know how we feel about his poor decision making. He has lost my respect and my vote (not that votes seem to count anymore). Richard make Tulare proud and get your act together. Get a backbone!

  3. Seriously, this is not the Civics 102 that I learned in college. I have assisted in running elections for city councils, judges, district attorneys, mayors, school boards and I can not believe the judges ruling. This is suppose to be a democracy that we live in but by these accounts it is if you do not like the will of the people keep changing the rules until you get what you want. This is not Russia, Syria, Iran, or North Korea. Remember Judges also come up for relevtion does the same apply for them if we chose not to recognize the will of the people?

    And I would like disclosure to who is paying for HCCA, Torres, and Benzeeves lawyers legal fees. Who funded their slanderous anti recall election and muck racking against Senovia and Kevin ? Hmmm !! TRMC taxpayer dollars funneled to HCCA track that but oh yeah they do not provide documents when requested!! Sterilize that one HCCA lawyers!!

    Citizens of Tulare HCCA lawyers are doing what they are paid to do. Distract, delay, deny, discourage, defame. When they are no longer paid there will be only jet vapor trails in their wake!! Follow the money trail it never lies. It is scattering the dust to distract from the truth!! I for one could care less who is funding the people who are trying to save TRMC!!

    I have known Mr. Torres family for years and can only say I am truly dismayed with his stance on this issue. His father was a man who cared about Tulare and it’s youth. My father helped his father out in a time of need and now my father is in dismay about his stance. I can only hope he will see the need to do what is right for Tulare. If not people he needs to resign or you need to recall him and end these games!

    Until HCCA is gone my family is part of the 51 percent who go to KDDH and oh my parents have been in Tulare for 80 plus years!!

  4. What a farce, this just shows how far HCCA is willing to go to hide what is becoming so obvious. They don’t want anyone in the books of TRMC. Who really wants it to stay hidden is Kumar.

    We are in the process of losing one of only 3 hospitals in our county and all of our elected officials have a deafening silence. Pete Vanderpoel ought to be ashamed but he believes HCCA and Kumar can actually fix this. What he fails to recognize is that they caused it and no amount of tax-payer money is going to fix their poor leadership. Bigger question has Pete benefitted from either of these two.

    Reed’s ruling is just so ridiculous. Her ruling just further helps the demise of TRMC and perpetuates the theft of public funds.

  5. Citizens accountability have created this mess….It is amazing cause if you don’t agree with this group you have been bought….Enough of this nonsense BS people. Agree and disagree it is our right!!!

    • Enough of “YOUR BS” Mickey, aka Benzeevi! Or are you another bought and paid for thug for Benny and HCCA???? Everyone knows that you speak with a fork tongue…..crawl back into your dirt hole. No one cares what you think, except yourself.

    • Benzeevi and Kumar created this mess. They really stirred it up when they got greedy for more tax payer money and then their antics with the medical staff. Volume has done nothing but drop under Benzeevi, no one created that but him.

      Word out there is Benzeevi got a $3 million loan against the equipment. Then quickly wrote a check for mounting attorney fees to Greene. What did he do with the rest of it, probably promptly it went into his own account.

      Food truck in the parking lot to feed the employees. Mickey you just keep on drinking the HCCA kool-aid as the hospital circles the drain.

  6. At one time Pete Vanderpoel’s wife was employed at TRMC in physician recruitment. I do not know if she is still employed at TRMC,

  7. I was really hoping that Judge Reed would prove me wrong in my assessment of her…… sadly she did not. At least now I know for a fact that she does not have the character to be a sitting Judge. Her judgement is either impaired or easily swayed. She will not have my vote when she is up for reelection.

    • I believe Superior Court judges are appointed by the governor. California voted for that with a ballot proposition years ago. I think the rationale was to keep judges out of the dirty game of politics.

        • It seems to me from what I read that the judge basically said the DA’s office did a sloppy job writing the Writ and that they were free to fix it and refile. I don’t see that as the judge’s fault.

          Don’t get me wrong, I want Senovia seated and Benny booted as much as the rest of you but if the Writ needs to be fixed to make legal sense, the DA or Deputy should fix it. One must do these things by the book in order to avoid rulings being appealed and/or overturned in the future.

  8. That You! Barbara – you are the perfect example…..I never even spoke with Dr B once hahaha
    I don’t know what is behind your accusations and honestly I do not care. I believe in freedom of speech and obviously you don’t. Bullies like you are killing our society.

    • You believe in freedom of speech? Me, too. How do you feel about freedom of information? Where’s the financial reports? Where did the money go? You blame Citizens for this mess? Did Citizens sign the ridiculous contract with HCCA? No. Did Citizens arrange for a $800k “line of credit” ( and then lie about it) to pay a past due bill? No. You don’t like bullies. Me either Did Citizens create the stupid “Drain the Swamp” site to defame their opponents? No. I think you know who did that.

  9. If a one of you has standing in this court battle, then put your money where your mouth is and have your attorneys file an appeal. There may well be some proof of Judge Reed’s wrong-doing or more likely misinterpretation of case law, But clearly, you Monday morning quarterbacks have all the answers that a duely sworn judge does not. So go ahead! Prove yourselves. Any takers? Or is it easier to whine?

    • I dont think that the majority of commentators are suggesting the the Judge is guilty of intentional “wrong doing” . They are simply expressing frustration over the apparent delay in carrying out the will of the people in the recent elections. This is the reaction of a healthy electorate in a functioning democracy. They are not “whiners” They are citizens. And these citizens are being ripped off by a few greedy parasites. So keep up the pressure citizens until your voice is heard and kumar , benzeevi and their low life associates are sent packing to some third world country where the people dont talk back.

    • As I just mentioned above, it read to me like the judge said the DA did a sloppy job on the Writ, and they/we are free to fix it and file again. I hope the DA’s office is working on it!
      Just because we don’t like the ruling doesn’t mean the judge is corrupt.

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