Tulare City Council, Devon Mathis Support Hospital Audit; Plan to Reopen Evolutions Presented

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The Tulare City Council — and Assemblyman Devon Mathis — have thrown their support behind a forensic audit of the Tulare Local Healthcare District’s bond spending.

Mathis represents the 26th Assembly District, which includes Tulare.

In a joint meeting on November 7, the council and the district convened a joint meeting to discuss how the city could assist the district, including the possibility of a letter from the city supporting an audit of the hospital.

The agenda was set prior to the announcement, made that night, that Mathis’ office would support an audit of the district’s finances.

Council’s Four Moves

“We look forward to a strong working relationship with our city council and our hospital board,” Kevin Northcraft, chairman of the hospital board, told the council.

The Tulare City Council voted on four items, proposed by Tulare City Councilman Jose Sigala. The city will:

  • Send a letter supporting an audit of the hospital, for the entire time of the $85m hospital bond,
  • Send a letter to the California Department of Public Health supporting a swift reopening of the hospital,
  • Create a statement asking Healthcare Conglomerate Associates to cooperate with the hospital board in transitioning the hospital to a new operator,
  • Provide “technical support” to the hospital board as needed.

Healthcare Conglomerate Associates is the company which managed Tulare Regional Medical Center from 2014 until the hospital’s suspension of services on October 29. The company still technically manages the district’s hospital, gym, and clinics, but suspended its employees.

All four moves were approved, unanimously.

Northcraft told the council that the hospital board had a legitimate belief that the hospital could have been involuntarily closed, leading to the board’s vote to suspend the hospital instead.

The board had been told that HCCA would pull its staff from the hospital, he said, causing an involuntary closure that would have led to sanctions from the state.

Xavier Avila, a hospital board member, told the council that the move was necessary to ensure the hospital’s continued operation.

“When you consider the option of allowing [an involuntary closure] to happen, or voluntarily suspending the license, and maybe getting it going in a few weeks to thirty days,” Avila said. “It’s a lot cheaper.”


Mathis’ Letter

“There has been a long history of questionable activities associated with the management of bond funds by the Tulare Regional Medical Center and the Healthcare Conglomerate Associates,” Mathis’ letter to the district’s board read. “Given the recent shutdown of the hospital, and the implication associated with the closure, I believe that a formal audit conducted by the State Auditor is appropriate.”

“[State Senator Jean] Fuller has expressed the intent of submitting a formal request to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee; I have pledged my commitment to supporting this effort in all aspects,” it continued.

Fuller represents the 16th State Senate District, which includes Tulare.


Fast-Track to Reopening Evolutions

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The Tulare Local Healthcare District also heard a proposal to potentially fast-track a reopening of Evolutions.

Tulare attorney Dennis Mederos presented a proposal to the hospital board to reopen Evolutions without any money required from the hospital district.

“The entities that would be involved in this would be economic development entities within the community of Tulare that are indicating that they could very well have funds to help get this business back, going,” Mederos said.

Those entities included the Tulare Hospital Foundation, the Tulare Local Development Company, and the Tulare Industrial Site Development Foundation.

Mederos stated that the concept was to create a new entity that would essentially lease Evolutions’ gym space, including equipment, and take over operations of the gym on an interim basis.

“Whatever the profit would be, would go to the district, so that the district would make the money — not this company,” Mederos said. “It would, in effect, operate as a nonprofit.”

“The goal is — being able to quickly move to get Evolutions itself open,” Mederos said. “We could let you worry about getting the hospital open, and we’d get Evolutions open.”

Mederos said that when the hospital was ready to re-assume operations of Evolutions, there would be a procedure in place to make the new entity “whole” — repay any outstanding debt — and transition the employees to the hospital district.

The board voted to proceed with exploring such an arrangement.

Kevin Northcraft stated that he’d like to see a business plan before finalizing any agreement.

“If we proceed tonight with a conceptual plan, I think we need to look at the business plan and be comfortable with that as part of our due diligence,” Northcraft said. “We replaced a board that never asked any questions. We want to make sure that we’re asking the right questions.”

Northcraft and Jamaica were elected to replace Sherrie Bell and Laura Gadke. Senovia Gutierrez was elected after the recall of Dr. Parmod Kumar. Bell, Gadke, and Kumar were criticized by Northcraft and other board members for supporting HCCA.

Reopening the gym wasn’t taking precedence over reopening the hospital, Northcraft said, although working to accomplish that first may appear counterintuitive.

“[Reopening the hospital] has more ramifications, more state approval, to accomplish that,” he said.

“It’s not like we’re putting these in priority order, even though Evolutions may open first.”


Shifting Winds

The city council had previously declined to pen a letter supporting an audit — but the hospital’s closure appeared to have shifted the political winds in Tulare with the approval of the aforementioned measures.

“We have our own responsibilities here, as a council,” Tulare Mayor Carlton Jones previously said at the council’s September 19 meeting. “If I wanted to run the hospital, I would have ran for the hospital board.”

Sigala had been the main councilmember pushing for an audit — but he had also previously faced criticism from his colleagues on the Tulare City Council.

“Jose Sigala is running for a higher office,” Tulare Vice-Mayor Maritsa Castellanoz said at the September 19 meeting. “For me, it seems like you’re using this as a platform for your campaign.”

Community members had also previously called for Mathis to support an audit.

Alberto Aguilar, a former member of the Bond Oversight Committee, told the Voice in 2016, that Mathis had told him he couldn’t request an audit. Mathis has consistently denied Aguilar’s allegations.

“He [Mathis] said he won’t do it because he owes Dr. [Benny] Benzeevi a favor,” Aguilar said. “Apparently, he’s [Benzeevi] helping him [Mathis] with a hospital in the Sierra.”

Benzeevi is the CEO of Healthcare Conglomerate Associates.

The hospital in the Sierra is the Southern Inyo Hospital. Its’ board members are now attempting to remove HCCA from the management of its facilities after alleging that the company may have shuffled funds between the two hospital districts without either district’s knowledge, and after a search warrant was served on the Inyo hospital on October 17.

Avila noted what he felt was a change in the community’s attitude, conveyed through recent hospital-focused elections — including the recall of Dr. Parmod Kumar, the rejection of the Measure I hospital bond, and the elections of Kevin Northcraft and Michael Jamaica.

“The voters of this district, of this town, are clearly making a judgement call. So, it’s something I think people need to know,” Avila told the council. “I hope we work together. This issue’s bigger than any one of us, and I look forward to doing it.”

In Depth: Tulare Regional Medical Center

24 thoughts on “Tulare City Council, Devon Mathis Support Hospital Audit; Plan to Reopen Evolutions Presented

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  1. Yes, Vice Mayor Castellanoz, it may indeed be true that in pushing for an audit, Mr Sigala is pursuing his own political ambitions. My I suggest that YOU become a little more ambitious and do the “peoples work”. Maybe you can learn something from Mr. Sigala.

  2. Well said patriot…. frankly I don’t care if Sigala has political ambitions at least he HAS ambition to move this issue forward which is more than what can be said for some others on the council…….may I suggest that people JUST DO THE RIGHT THING!

  3. Thank you Mr Sigala

    Dont get distracted by the noise. Politicians are supposed to rise by working for the people. You are on right track.

  4. No I am not Sigala, but…..Im not sure that your comment/question serves any useful purpose. The fact remains, our elected officials should be working their rear ends off for us. The loss of the hospital is a disaster for patients, doctors and businesses in Tulare. Any local official who has not tried to prevent this should immediately resign or should be run out of town by an angry mob.

  5. A little competition is good for a politician’s motivation. Matt Darby announced for DA, and all of a sudden Tim Ward starts working on the TRMC issues. Warren Gubler takes on Mathis and now Mathis remembers he can ask for an audit of TRMC. Coincidences?

  6. Concerned Tularean, you sound like you might be Maritsa or a relative, just maybe your side kick Carlton. As for Mr Sigala, at least he has shown up to hospital board meetings and knows how to be a city council member. He was asked by citizens to get involved and he did, he didn’t have the attitude like most of the other council member(what can I get out of this/what is in it for me)

  7. By some of the ridiculous questions asked by a couple City Council Members. Maybe they should have come to a few hospital board meetings with Mr. Sigala, then they would know what was going on! Instead of having coffee/dinner out of town and plotting the overthrow of the Chief! Could you have been more bored at this meeting Mr. Mayor????

  8. Thank you, Mr. Sigsla. You are doing what a City Council Person should do. Investigate, Support the Citizens of Tulare, and create cooperation between boards and not dissention. I applaud your stand for Tulare. I do not care if you seek higher office. Sacramento could use more people of your caliber. Your fellow Council Persons should follow your lead!! Well done !!

  9. I was very interested in the Council/Board meeting. It seemed to me that a few of the Council members were less than interested in the proceedings, and one or two seemed surprisingly lacking in basic information about the situation at the hospital. How can they even pretend to be doing their jobs and behave the way they did at that meeting? I found it shocking. I am glad to see various entities beginning to work together. Together we can!

  10. Sigala for new Mayor!? The crooked of Tulare Ca. May be coming down hard. P.D. also in trouble. Too greedy! Someone will break and your all going down!! From hospital to city counsel. First to talk usually walks!! The can has been opened.

  11. Very sad the counsel board gets all over Mr Sigala because he has the peoples interest in mind and even accusing him of wanting to get ahead politically..

    Yes! Mr Sigala will advance in position by doing the bidding of what the “citizens” want. And the citizens will “remember” the ones that only cared about protecting their own greed and corruption!

    We are living in a time that the people are awake to the corruption that is taking place and will not tolerate it any longer!

    This town has many crooks… Time has come to sweep them away!!

  12. Maritsa and Carlton are tools. Ethics questionable for both. Now when the corruption is so obvious they chime in. Think about this your campaign donations from HCCA would have paid a few paychecks.

  13. Oh you people are a real joke. A few months ago you all hated Jose Sigala for wanting to make Tulare a Sanctuary City. Thank God the 4 shot that down. Lay off of Macedo, Castellanoz, Nunly and Jones. Because of them we kept our City out of that mess. Wake up people this man is in it for himself.

  14. Well said Wakeup Tulare. I forgot all about the Sanctuary City move Mr Sigala was trying so hard to enforce. Way to go Castellanoz for calling Mr. Sigala on his selfless ways. The guy is not even from Tulare. In 2014 he ran for LA city council and lost then moved to Tulare for his personal agenda. Coincidently he moved to the district that was next up for election.

  15. Good point. I was at the chamber meeting when Sigala tried to make the town Sanctuary. He even brought folks from other cities to speak in support of. I live in his district and I and all my neighbors feel he has not kept any of his promises. Our former councilwoman Gowin worked her tail off for us. Thank you Vice Mayor for bringing to light what many of us feel in Zone district 1.No to Sanctuary City! No to Sigala! Bring back Gowin

  16. Woo hoo! Yes exactly what Vern said. Sigala must go. Good job council board for keeping him accountable. Martiza spoke exactly what we were all thinking good for her! Nobody should use our City for a political gain. Bring back Shea Gowin to take over!

  17. Citizens of Tulare, please take a closer look at this picture. I am a resident of district 4. My represenative Dave Macedo has done a fine job representing not just his district but the entire city. Mr. Sigala has in my opinion an agenda to reach his own goals. It bewildered me to think so many would support a very vocal anti-Christian. As a Christian I cannot support a pro-abortion vocalist. I stood at the sidelines waiting for someone, anyone to call him on his agenda. My belief is he will use anything to create a name for himself. Thank you councilwoman for standing up to Mr. Sigala. I never knew he moved here in 2014 after an unsuccessful election. The proof is in the pudding. His agenda was outlined when he moved here.

  18. Truth16 sorry but the real corruption lies in any Anti-Christan. Campaign donations are a part of politics. We cannot continue to stone those who accepted donations. Mr. Sigala may not have any contributions from HCCA but he certainly has other agenda driven contributions. If we stone 2 people for receiving contributions we have to be fair and stone everyone that receives campaign funds Mr. Sigala included.

    • I definitely disagree, I am not sure of all of the campaign donations for any of them nor what donations Sigala received which might impact his decisions as a council member. I do want someone that is going to represent the best interests of the citizens and I see in this issue Mr. Sigala has done that.

      But the reality is Carlton, Maritsa and Mathis all took money from HCCA. All actively campaigned for their agendas – Measure I, Kumar Recall and a bill for nursing homes that greatly benefitted Southern Inyo. All the while trying to say it isn’t their place to get involved with the hospital.

      The issue of the hospital should be of a great concern to all the council. It impacts life and death which as someone that is pro life you would think that would concern you as well. Even when the documented cases of unnessary death came out neither of these three spoke up.

      Now that search warrants were issued in Southern Inyo and their attorney threw Benzeevi under the bus for misappropriation of funds they have finally agreed to request an audit.

      Thankful they are doing the right thing.

  19. I am counting 5 people in a row who say they support the Tulare Vicemayor and also talk negatively of Jose Sigalla

    And Just Think !! The first 3 are only 15 minutes a part each but talk to each other ?

    Who would want to in flate the vicemayor and make Sigalla look bad . I know someone close to our Vicemayor posted on face book to recall him

    The Holy Bible says

    You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.

    Exodus 23:1-3

  20. I’m sorry but I disagree with you folks. I was perfectly fine with our former councilwoman Shea Gowin representing 1. Sanctuary City folks let’s not forget that. Truth 16 is Jose Sigala.

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