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Publication Date: Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Gerald Shefren resigns from health-care board Gerald Shefren resigns from health-care board (April 30, 2003)

** Sequoia district officials goof in haste to fill vacancy.

By Renee Batti
Almanac News Editor

It was just in time: Only three days after the Sequoia Healthcare District board passed a new rule regarding how to fill vacancies after resignations, board president Dr. Gerald Shefren penned a letter of resignation, citing the time constraints of a new position at Stanford Medical Center.

That might have been considered a serendipitous sequence of events, except for one thing: The board members, and district CEO Frank Gibson, apparently forgot to read the new policy.

As a result, Mr. Gibson and acting board president Malcolm MacNaughton put together a plan to replace Dr. Shefren that violated the new policy -- in two ways. A notice sent out April 21 announced Dr. Shefren's resignation and the appointment by Mr. MacNaughton of a three-person subcommittee charged with interviewing applicants for the vacancy.

The subcommittee -- made up of one board member, one community member and Mr. Gibson -- was to recommend a replacement to the five-member board. The board was to consider the recommendation, and perhaps appoint a new member, at its June 4 meeting.

The new policy, however, requires the full board to appoint the subcommittee, and is very clear about the make-up of the group: "two district board members and the CEO of the district." It leaves no room, it seems, for a community member.

It was only after Mr. Gibson was asked by the Almanac about the conflict between the announced course of action and the new policy that the district abruptly switched gears. Mr. Gibson quickly scheduled a special public meeting on Monday, April 28, to allow the full board to discuss options to fill the vacancy.

One option on the agenda is a special election to fill the seat until November 2004 -- a course that self-described minority board member Jack Hickey wants to be seriously considered.

The meeting was held after the Almanac's press time.

Never mind ...

The original plan was a goof, Mr. Gibson and Mr. MacNaughton said last week. "It was human error," the acting board president said. "But it's not an error that can't be remedied."

After receiving Dr. Shefren's resignation letter, dated April 5, "we tried to talk him into staying -- we did not want to recognize his resignation," said Mr. MacNaughton. But once Dr. Shefren made it clear he wouldn't be talked out of it, the district needed to act, and the board wasn't scheduled to meet again until June 4.

Mr. Gibson said the acting board president asked him what the procedure for replacement was, and rather than consulting the new policy, he called upon his memory for help, and recommended a course the district had followed in the past.

The new policy was passed 3-0, with no discussion, on April 2. Dr. Shefren and Mr. MacNaughton were absent.

Experience, commitment

Dr. Shefren, a Portola Valley resident and a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist, was first elected to the district board for a two-year term in 2000. He easily won a four-year term last November.

He was chosen board president by his colleagues following last year's election.

Lamenting Dr. Shefren's resignation, Mr. MacNaughton cited "the quality that he offers both in experience and commitment." And, he added, "he's an enjoyable fellow to be around."

Dr. Shefren's contributions to the district stem largely from his responsible and serious approach to matters before the board, Mr. MacNaughton noted. "You know that the judgment you're going to get from Jerry is based on good intelligence and good experience."


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