How Greene Was My Valley
Tony Maldonado, Dave Adalian and I have been hard at the oars now for the better part of two years regarding the doings at Tulare Regional Medical Center (TRMC).
It was with some surprise, then–and no small relish–that, before the 7 September issue, I watched the Chief take sudden umbrage at all the jousting.
At issue was her frustration over an unanswered question: Who is the CEO of the hospital?
We explained that TRMC is governed by the Tulare Local Healthcare District Board (TLHCD) a previous incarnation of which had selected as an alignment partner Healthcare Conglomerate Associates (HCCA).
We explained that the board has a Chairperson, currently Kevin Northcraft, and that HCCA has a CEO, Dr. Benny Benzeevi.
We explained that the hospital, itself, has no CEO.
This set the Chief on the warpath.
So she wrote exasperated letters to Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward, Congressman Devin Nunes, California State Senator Jean Fuller and California State Assemblyman Devon Mathis. Why, she asked, are the people of one of the poorest counties in California left to fend for themselves? And where are our elected representatives?
“Who,” she asked me, “is running the show?”
That’s the $100 million question.
Benzeevi was given carte blanche by the previous board to seek and secure up to $100 million in loans.
But now the new board can’t get sufficient financial information, including audits, from HCCA–which is threatening to sue the board for multiple breaches of its financial obligations. The board, in turn, hasn’t been able to meet in regular session for two months because HCCA’s attorney, Bruce Greene of Baker Hostetler, asserts that, according to California Election Code section 15400, Senovia Gutierrez will not actually be a sitting board member until the board itself declares her to be one.
Gutierrez won in a landslide recall election of Dr. Parmod Kumar and was sworn into office on 25 July.
According to Greene and HCCA, the current board consists of Northcraft, Mike Jamaica, and Richard Torrez, the latter of who sat–chiefly in silence–on the old board.
Through its attorney, Robert Welsh of Baker Hostetler, HCCA promised to Superior Court Judge Melinda Reed on 18 September that it would declare Gutierrez elected at TLHCD’s next regular board meeting scheduled for 27 September.
Until recently Greene has been the attorney for both TLHCD and HCCA. But has he really been? In nearly two years of observation it seems to me that Greene has acted in favor of HCCA and actively against the district’s interests.
Greene, and Baker Hostetler, were terminated by the new board in a special meeting on 9 August.
According to the most recently filed court documents in a motion to force Greene and Torrez to declare Gutierrez, Greene and Baker Hostetler have thus far–as of 13 September–refused to accept the validity of their termination.
Let’s take a look-see at what 15400 actually says:
The governing body shall declare elected or nominated to each office voted on at each election under its jurisdiction the person having the highest number of votes for that office, or who was elected or nominated under the exceptions noted in Section 15452. The governing board shall also declare the results of each election under its jurisdiction as to each measure voted on at the election.
In plain language, then, to declare election results is a ministerial obligation the board has to its constituency–and not a mechanism by which it itself certifies the result of an election.
If Gutierrez was, as the law says, a sitting board member upon her election and swearing-in, then Greene would have had no choice but to accept his firing.
How well has he served the board these past two months?