The Year’s Top Stories
Some might say 2017 was the Year of the Woman, but so far as local politics is concerned, it was the Year of Tulare.
Looking back on 2017, the Valley Voice’s top 10 stores didn’t so much document the major events in Tulare and Kings County, but told the story of the extraordinary changes happening in the city of Tulare.
Here are the Valley Voice’s top 10 stories dominated by the Tulare Regional Hospital.
- HCCA Employees Report Withheld Final Checks
- UPDATED: Tulare Regional Medical Center to Undergo Chapter 9 Bankruptcy
- UPDATED: Tulare Regional Medical Center to Temporarily Suspend Operations October 29
- HCCA Out at TRMC on November 22; Hospital Served With Warrant
- As Southern Inyo Attempts to Leave HCCA, Search Warrant Served
- UPDATED: Paychecks Bounce at Tulare Local Healthcare District
- Silence Breaks at Tulare Regional as DA Takes Interest
- Political Fix (19 October, 2017)
- Tulare Regional Medical Center Begins Recruitment Process for Hospital Employees
- Keeping Up With the Jones
Here are the top 10 stories of 2017 not including Tulare Hospital
- Political Fix (19 October, 2017)
- Keeping Up With The Jones
- Kings County Prosecutor Darby Declares Run
- Local Dairymen Take Part in California Milk Rose Parade Float
- Tulare Police Chief Still Has Job, Despite Union Misgivings
- Devon Mathis’ Chief of Staff, Sean Doherty, Fired
- UPDATED: Tulare PD Chief’s Attorney Demands Action. Tulare Waits.
- Tulare Public Cemetery District in Turmoil
- Local Family Celebrates 50 Years with A&W Restaurants
- Hensley Still On Leave, Attorney Claims Slow Response to Requests for Documents
Though I occasionally poked fun at the “Tulare Way,” I have to say I am extremely impressed.
What the residents of Tulare accomplished this year is no less than amazing. Of course the big story is the Tulare hospital and how it succeeded despite all of the odds.
But the smaller stories of the Tulare Public Cemetery and the community responding to the waste of taxpayer money on paid administrative leave is a microcosm of what happened with the hospital.
Elaine Hollingsworth and her friends formed a group called Caring Cause that documented the deteriorating condition of the Tulare Public cemetery.
They faithfully went to cemetery meetings, kept notes, documented problems, and called for board members to step down and deadbeat employees to retire.
Because of their determination, after just one article in the Voice, many of the old board members and longtime employees left the district.
Now there is a new staff working in the district office, a new Tulare Public Cemetery District Board, and the cemetery is being restored to its former glory.
On a larger scale Citizens for Accountability did the same with TRMC. But theirs was truly a David and Goliath struggle.
Citizens for Accountability attended all of the hospital board meetings, organized candidates to run for the board, defeated Measure I, beat out the incumbents, and kicked HCCA out as TRMC’s management company.
And Citizens for Accountability did what the old hospital board did not – They read the management contract and fought back.
What were the Tulare residents up against in their fight to take back their hospital?
- Iddo and Benny Benzeevi, multimillionaire brother, who were defeated by a small group with scant resources.
- The Los Angeles corporate world including legal, public relations, business consultants, and marketing firms such a Baker Hostettleer, Sitrick and Company, Andalon and Associates, The Monaco Group — many with $500 an hour fees.
- Multimillionaire donors such as Luther Khachigian and Manuel Mancebo.
- Local elected officials who took campaign contributions–but took no action–such as Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward, Assemblyman Devon Mathis, Tulare Mayor Carlton Jones and Tulare Vice-Mayor Maritsa Castellanoz.
Tulareans did what Dr. Benzeevi didn’t anticipate. They showed up. And they won completely on their own without the help of one elected representative.
The little guys turned what was an inside joke, “the Tulare Way” into something that is definitely no joke, “Tulare Strong.”
On a lighter note
Two feel good stories written by Nancy Vigran managed to draw some attention from the Tulare drama and break into the top ten stories of the year. Nancy writes,
“Everyone likes a “feel good” story. Local Dairymen Take Part in California Milk Rose Parade Float was just that. It is an honor to participate in the Rose Parade, a tradition which garnishes the attention of millions of TV viewers from around the world. Tulare dairymen Joey and Joseph Airoso, and Mario and Joe Simoes received that honor by riding on the California Milk float in the 2017 parade along with other families from around the state.
Agriculture is highly important and loved in the Valley, especially the California dairy industry, which works under the highest regulations in the US. This article was not only popular with the Voice’s regular readership and the local Ag community, but no doubt, garnered attention from around the state as well.
Local Family Celebrates 50 Years with A&W Restaurants reveals the success that the Cary family made in the South Valley serving up root beer floats and good fast food. The article tells the family’s life history with A&W and the local community from the purchase of one restaurant on Willis St. in Visalia to opening several more in Tulare and Kings Counties.
From one generation to the next, Craig Van Horn has taken over the family business that his parents, Bob and Karen Cary, started. Although retired, Karen Cary remains active in some decision making, and one of Van Horn’s sisters, Jill Cary, helps with some of the bookkeeping.
Following in his parents footsteps, Van Horn is active with many events in the Visalia and South Valley area. He and his family are well-known throughout the community making this article a must-read for regular Voice readers and others as well.”
A Pressing Question to Ring in 2018
Why did the City of Tulare hire a law firm that that specializes in suing cities?
Tulare’s June 6 city council agenda it states, “approve a legal services agreement with Goyette & Associates, Inc., for City Attorney Services for the City of Tulare, and authorize the City Manager to execute the agreement on behalf of City Council.”
According to Goyette’s website “Our labor lawyers represent private sector unions and public employee associations such as peace officer and firefighter organizations, management groups and general employee associations.”
The vote was 4-1 with Council Member, David Macedo, voting no.
Heather Phillips, Supervising Partner with Goyette and Associates, was appointed as Tulare’s lawyer.
Her profile says, “She represents public safety officers, firefighters, and various other public employees in both labor and criminal matters. Heather has practiced exclusively in the field of labor/employment and criminal law throughout her career.”
Besides the curious choice in law firms, did anyone on the Tulare City Council cotton on to the fact there is a conflict of interest between Ms. Phillips and the city’s mayor?
In a Facebook post announcing her new job in Tulare she reassured her friends that the Fresno City Employees Association was still her client.
She states, “I still represent my peace officers, firefighters, teachers, corrections supervisors, and all the other employees I know and love. “
How can Ms. Philips represent Mr. Jones in his capacity as a Fresno fire fighter and as the Mayor of Tulare at the same time? She may have even already represented him when Mr. Jones sued Fresno in 2013 for discrimination.
Stranger still is the fact that Mr. Jones reported to the online newspaper, Sierra2thesea, that Ms. Phillips was already hired as the city’s lawyer two weeks before the Tulare City Council even voted on the issue.
As stated in Sierra2thesea on May 26, “The City of Tulare has selected a firm to be their permanent city attorney according to Mayor Carlton Jones. Sacramento-based Goyette Associates will represent the city with attorneys Heather Phillips and Sarah Tobias based in Tulare.”
According to Tulare’s meeting minutes the vote was taken on June 6.
One lawyer I spoke with about this issue said it was either a violation of the Brown Act, where the council decided at a private meeting to hire Ms. Phillips, or Mr. Jones attempted to bully the council into voting for her. The other council members might have thought they could get sued if they hired a different law firm after Mr. Jones went public with his preference.
Then there is the issue of compensation.
The City of Tulare pays Goyette and Associates a flat fee of $30,000 a month. On top of that they pay approximately $170 an hour for any services outside of their contract.
If you divide 30,000 by 170 that would mean the law firm is putting in 176 hours of legal work a month. That’s more than 40 hours a week.
Either Tulare is over paying, or the city is in some legal hot water we all do not know about.
But if you have a litigious mayor you are going to have a litigious city.
And it is very fair to say that Tulare’s mayor is litigious.
In researching court records I have found that Mr. Jones, at the tender age of 45, has been involved in 10 cases, and those are only the ones that I know of.
He has sued both the City of Tulare and the City of Fresno. So it seems to be more than a coincidence that he recommended a law firm that specializes in suing cities.
Add to the mix that Mr. Jones sued the City of Fresno, among other things, for revoking his Emergency Medical Services (EMS) license.
According to their website, “The lawyers and labor representatives at Goyette & Associates specialize in labor and employment law, employee representation, wage and hour, civil litigation, RN and EMS license defense.”
Is he using Tulare taxpayer money to send a one finger salute to his employer in Fresno?
Or send Fresno a threat: “Look who I have on my speed dial.”