Viewpoint: Rogue board member roils health-care districtThe Sequoia Healthcare District is under attack from one of its own board members, a Libertarian who says the taxes collected and allocated to nonprofits should be returned to the state and the district dissolved. Director Jack Hickey, whose board term won't expire for two more years, is running against incumbents Kim Griffin and Katie Kane. The top two vote-getters win on Nov. 6, and if one is Mr. Hickey, he says that will be a vote for dissolution. But in reality it would simply mean that board members likely would appoint the losing candidate to fill his current board seat.
The Sequoia district, like many others in the state, was chartered to establish a hospital and given a 1 percent share of the district's residential property taxes. In 1996 the board decided to sell the hospital to Catholic Healthcare West. The sale did not do away with the district or its tax revenue, which currently generates more than $10 million a year that gets distributed by the board to nonprofit agencies within the district. The board's donations are legal under state provisions that allow health-care districts to focus on outpatient services, but are not up to Mr. Hickey's standards.
During his 10 years on the board, Mr. Hickey has steadfastly opposed the practice of contributing to nonprofits, saying the private sector should take over this support and the tax revenue diverted to other uses.
Ms. Griffin and the other three board members disagree, showing no inclination to change their current strategy of supporting nonprofits with sizable annual grants, including $2.9 million for the Healthy Schools Initiative and $2 million for the North Fair Oaks Clinic.
Mr. Hickey's crusade to push other board members and the public his way has found little support. His effort in the previous election to take over the board with a slate of Libertarian-leaning candidates was a failure, leaving his dissolution strategy in tatters. Despite the aggressive attacks on the board and its actions, there is little likelihood that he will succeed.
In our view, if the board does change course in the future, it should either decide by vote of the directors or by the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo), which oversees special districts in the county, to turn down the tax money. Neither body is likely to change current policy, so the single-minded effort by Mr. Hickey in this election is virtually certain to fall short.
We do suggest the board majority pay more attention to stewardship of the public's money. Every effort should be made to ensure grants are spent as intended, and even audited if possible. At the same time, the board should reconsider if the district needs a $150,000-plus a year CEO and five employees. We agree with Mr. Hickey that the CEO's compensation is far beyond necessary to attract a good administrator who could oversee such a small staff.
In the race for two seats on the Sequoia Healthcare District board, we urge voters to support incumbents Kim Griffin and Katie Kane, and to NOT cast a vote for Jack Hickey, who is already a board member and has two years remaining in his term.
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Posted by Jack Hickey, a resident of the Woodside: Emerald Hills neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2012 at 11:15 am
Shame on you Tom!
You know that when I was first elected in 2002 it was on a platform to carry out the Grand Jury's recommendation to stop collecting taxes for a hospital the district no longer owned. Done on an annual basis, that would have put dollars back in the pockets of property owners who paid for Sequoia Hospital. Now that I have come to grips with the practical reality, dissolution of the district is the obvious course of action. For you to suggest that I advocate that "...the taxes collected and allocated to nonprofits should be returned to the state..." is deceitful. Dissolution of the District would result in distribution of district assets and tax revenue to affected agencies in proportion to their current share of the 1% General Tax on property. Take a look at the pie chart that comes with your tax bill. School districts, fire districts, cities, etc. would all get their fair share as they do now in East Palo Alto which does not have a healthcare district.
You say "The board's donations are legal under state provisions that allow health-care districts to focus on outpatient services, but are not up to Mr. Hickey's standards." The 2001 Civil Grand Jury disagreed and cited the principle of "voter intent" as their rationale. The voter intent in 1946 was for the district to build, operate and maintain Sequoia Hospital. Now, Sequoia Hospital is totally owned and governed by Dignity Health. The District is no longer needed, and is in fact, redundant.
If the Sequoia Healthcare District didn't exist today (and it's legal status is questionable), do you think that voters would create it by siphoning off a piece of the 1% property tax pie from those other agencies? Not a chance!
You said, "His effort in the previous election to take over the board with a slate of Libertarian-leaning candidates was a failure, leaving his dissolution strategy in tatters". In 2010, I received 1,566 more votes than Art Faro, longtime Boardmember and former CEO of Sequoia Hospital. In 2008, I received 30,378 votes to Kim Griffins 30,922. Their is considerable support for dissolution. This election, which I crafted to be a poll of voter support for dissolution, will tell the tale.
I thank you for agreeing with me on the CEO salary, but must correct you figure. Lee Michelson received a 14 1/2% raise which brought his salary up to 182,000/year, retroactive to February of this year. Add 4% for 401k matching funds, $4,800 in-lieu of health insurance, $480 for Healthy employee Gym reimbursement, etc. and we're talking big bucks!
I'm hoping that your negative endorsement "...to NOT cast a vote for Jack Hickey..." and that of the Central Labor Council's ABSOLUTELY NOT, will backfire.
Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community, on Oct 31, 2012 at 11:40 am
Nobody should pay any attention to what an Advertising Media aka as a paper endorses. They can't survive without advertising income, and that should explain certain endorsements.
Jack Hickey asked me to join him and Fred Graham for the sole purpose of enforcing the recommendation of the 2000-01 Grand Jury. I agreed for that purpose and that purpose only. If elected we would have shut down Sequoia Healthcare District. This Advertising Media told its readers that was a bogus idea and we could not do that....which was not the truth.
This very simple 19 people on the GJ invested their time and made a recommendation. 5 people who benefit from being on the board responded by letter "We decline to do so at this time." That is the only reason Sequoia Healthcare District is here today.
Vote only one name....VOTE Jack Hickey if you agree with me and the Grand Jury.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2012 at 11:48 am
This is a very poorly conceived and unfortunate election recommendation from The Almanac.
This district was formed to support a hospital that the district no longer owns. Regardless of its good intentions by funding other healthcare entities, it is simply not within the domain or intent that was presented to taxpayers.
It's about time that government returned money that it no longer uses for the stated purpose.
I will be voting for Jack Hickey and only Jack Hickey. I don't know him but I respect him greatly.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2012 at 11:51 am
And since when is the only guy who wants to abide by the Grand Jury's findings considered "a rogue?"
The other directors are the rogues.