And now Mister Bruce Greene comes prancing to the fore, via his attorneys, attempting to subpoena documents from the Valley Voice and its writers in the discovery phase of his defense in the suit brought against him, and his law firm, Baker & Hostetler LLP, by the Tulare Local Healthcare District (TLHCD) dba Tulare Regional Medical Center (TRMC).
If you recall, Greene recently enjoyed a polygamous few years while he was the attorney, simultaneously, for TLHCD and for the management company which ran TRMC, Healthcare Conglomerate Associates (HCCA).
If memory serves, he was also the attorney for HCCA CEO Dr. Benny Benzeevi.
Greene never once came down on TLHCD’s side. Because, as as a public entity, TLHCD could not possibly ever have been paying him the sums that HCCA had been. In fact, Greene once gave his nod in favor of a loan to HCCA that led directly to the payment his firm had billed HCCA and was overdue for some period of time. We’re talking $550,000. HCCA secured the loan, and Greene–and Baker, Hostetler–were paid the same or next day.
I’ve decided to rely on memory here because it’s all the more visceral. Compelling. But if you need the times, dates and swamp water–contact Tony Maldonado. His email is in the staff box below this column. Greene’s attorney could easily have availed himself of the same.
How all Greene’s machinations could possibly have been legal is unspeakable. It’s also beyond me. Beyond me, as well–after having threatened us–is that he’d seek to compel our cooperation in his defense.
The re-born Valley Voice had been chugging along for nearly three years when a thick file was passed to us from the Tulare County Grand Jury about HCCA’s firing all 135 members of TRMC’s Medical Executive Committee. That’s basically all the doctors.
Our first reporter on the story, Dave Adalian, and I met with, I think, four or five of TRMC’s former doctors. They were tearing their hair out and greatly relieved that we, a newspaper–any newspaper–would finally entertain their concerns.
But Dave didn’t get the story totally technically correct, to HCCA’s way of thinking–and Bruce Greene threatened not only the paper’s existence but our own–the Chief’s and my very livelihood–with damages he wrote could be “measured by the hour.” Because we own the paper. The following (with my messages in bold) is an email thread that passed between Greene and myself in mid March, 2016:
Let me first assure you that no malice is ever intended on the part of this paper. I have been working hard to rectify any inaccuracies and will happily in print and online not only correct where we are wrong, but proclaim so loudly. I am still working on this, and will not rest until satisfied of our accuracy. Other than telling a factual story, the paper has utterly no interest in this matter. That said, we don’t appear in print again until 7 April. I have spoken with a Mr. Pfeifer about this and offered his firm a chance to reply at that time. In the meantime, I will do all in my capacity to rectify what is now online.
Mr Oldenbourg: The article is still on line. You have apparently made a few minor changes but those changes are just exacerbating an already bad situation. The article is still replete with false statements and statements made without the slightest effort at corroboration.
I would urge you to IMMEDIATELY remove the on line article. No amount of changes right now will correct this debacle, and unless you desire to incur continued liability to our client, you should heed this suggestion.
Moreover, you most definitely should not publish the article in print if that has not already been done, and I would urge you to take all necessary steps to print (on line and in print) an immediate retraction.
I have given your last email to the author to revisit and meticulously check against the story. It has, though, already gone to print. It went yesterday. I do not desire to incur any liability to your client; my intention, as I have said, is to tell an accurate story to our readership. If there are mistakes, as you say, we will do our level best to rectify them.
[Note: The “last email” was a legal threat letter sent to me by Greene. I sent it along to Dave. Many of Greene’s assertions have subsequently been proven incorrect. Furthermore, in his letter, Greene impugned our reporter, Dave. Dave has won a first place award for himself and the Valley Voice two years running, in 2017 and 2018, for journalistic excellence from the California Newspaper Publishers Association.]
Mr Oldenbourg: I have no intention of going back and forth with you. You have the ability to change the on line article. Therefore you have the ability to remove it. If you choose to leave it on line, you do so at your own risk. If you choose not to stop the printed version, you likewise do so at your own risk. Damages here may well be measured by the hour.
Mr. Greene: You surely don’t expect me simply to haul down an article already online–or stop one already in print–strictly on your instruction. Our commitment is to the truth and, as I have said, we are willing to admit when we are in error. I have been reasonable thus far in remedying problems that have been pointed out to me. I have said repeatedly that there is now and never has been any malicious intent. May I point out to you without researching the archive that I believe the Tulare Regional Medical Center has advertised with us. I have no desire to sabotage them; again, our desire is for the truth.
Mr. Oldenbourg: That is exactly what I expect. The article was clearly published with no regard for the truth. We have so advised you. We have also advised you that it has damaged our client and continues to do so as long as it remains on line and in print without a full retraction. Under the circumstances, one would expect that you would do everything in your power to remove the article from publication, at least until you can verify the truth. Not leave it out there doing further damage while you “check your facts.”
Why should we simply accept your statement that there has been no malice here? Actions speak larger than words. Your actions do not convey any sense of responsibility or true concern for our client.
As I have said, you are acting at your own risk.
I admit we passed a few terrified hours. Baker & Hostetler is a goliath of a firm in, according to its stationery, 14 major cities across North America. That is, of course, the precise time during which we reached out to local attorneys.
We spoke with Maggie Melo and John Sarsfield because we’d been covering a few stories they’d been the attorneys party to. We also found we liked and trusted them. It was John who, in this crisis, told me that, in these cases, sometimes one just has to grow a backbone.
So I grew one on the spot. Few things in life can be so heartening as when two attorneys one respects proclaim to have one’s back. More than jump, I’d happily don a red dress and matching pair of pumps at the opportunity to testify against Greene–that’s how ridiculous his subpoena for our documents in his defense is. No one associated with this paper will do anything to assist him. Ever.
To begin with, we’ve already published everything relevant to his case. It’s all online. And to conclude with, we’re protected by the state’s constitution. End of story. To quote Maggie’s letter to Greene’s attorney:
“Those documents and information, including their personal impressions, are all protected by the California Constitution and State Law. See California Constitution Article I, Section 2(b) and Evidence Code Section 1070.
Each and all of them are declining to comply with your subpoena and are instead asserting their Newspaper Reporter Privilege under both the Constitution and the statute/Evidence Code.”
So, yes–with some amusement we’re refusing his subpoena, and each of the 44 ridiculous requests contained therein.
I hope he loses his shirt. And if he does?
I’ll get you a red dress, Greene.