Five applicants jumped in and applied for a single seat on the Southern Mono Healthcare District’s Hospital Board left vacant by Don Sage’s resignation last month. On Thursday morning, Dec. 16, the four seated Board members reviewed the applications and heard from the three applicants that were present in the room.
John King is an engineer that is used to working on data systems and could have been valuable with the Hospital’s IT, however his wife is a doctor at Mammoth Hospital. According to the Board’s legal counsel, David Baumwohl, this presents a conflict of interest problem. “There is an exception in the conflict of interest laws to allow physicians to serve [which is why Dr. Dennis Crunk is able to sit on the Board], but it is unclear if the exemption applies to a spouse,” Baumwohl explained. “If the legislator intended for the exemption to include a spouse, why wouldn’t it be stated?”
Crunk felt that King’s appointment to the Board would not be any worse than having himself sitting up at the dais. “By my being here, he should not be disqualified,” Crunk said, who will have to be careful in his tenure to recuse himself from votes that could raise eyebrows.
Kiara Raazi is an employee of Mammoth Hospital, which effectively knocks him out of the running because employees cannot sit on the Board. “He would have to resign from his position prior to taking the Board seat if he were chosen, or else the minute he was sworn in his contract would automatically be terminated,” Baumwohl explained. Dr.Murat Akalin, who encouraged Raazi to apply, questioned this law, stating that there was a paragraph in the Hospital’s bylaws that discussed employees sitting on the Board. In short, Baumwohl explained that State laws trump the Hospital’s bylaws.
“That paragraph in the bylaws could be used if the statute was ever thrown out,” Baumwohl said.
Michelle Mather, a massage therapist, did not attend the Board meeting to make her case as to why the Board seat should be hers. Neither did Richard Vroman, but according to Baumwohl, he may also have a conflict of interest because his spouse is an employee of the hospital. “There is an exception for someone who has a spouse that is an employee, if the employee has been around for at least one year in the same position, which Vroman’s wife has” Baumwohl said. “So he could serve, but he could have conflict of interest issues too.”
Which left Lynda Salcido. Salcido has served on the Board for 13 years and ran to reclaim her seat in the November election, but lost. When Sage resigned, the Board wanted to automatically appoint Salcido but was advised by Baumwohl that they should first open the seat up to other applicants.
With all of the other applicants either not present, on shaky ground with conflict of interest laws, or having to give up their job in order to take the unpaid seat on the Board, member Helen Shepherd made a motion to appoint Salcido. The motion was approved 3-1 with Crunk dissenting, and Salcido was sworn in that morning.