Friday, October 28, 2011

Tri-City reinstates Horton but not Sterling

Tri-City reinstates Horton but not Sterling
Both board members had been excluded from public health district’s closed sessions
Aaron Burgin
Oct. 27, 2011

The Tri-City Healthcare District Board of Directors voted Thursday to reinstate elected colleague Randy Horton to closed-session meetings, but extended Kathleen Sterling’s ban until the end of her term.

The public health board voted 4-2 to allow Horton back in closed-session meetings, but voted 5-1 to maintain Sterling's ouster from the sessions. Each vote had one abstention.

Board members said Sterling’s behavior and breaches of confidentiality had spanned her entire term on the board and had gone on long enough.

“Although what (Horton) did was egregious, I do believe a second chance is in order,” Charlene Anderson said before voting in favor of Horton’s reinstatement. “Kathleen has been doing this for 12 years.”

The board nearly voted to remove her from office, but deadlocked 3-3 after Greg Moser, the board’s legal counsel, said that such a vote would be “unprecedented.” Horton, Larry Schallock and Dr. Cyril Kellett voted against removal; Anderson, RoseMarie Reno and George Coulter voted in favor; Sterling abstained.

Thursday’s actions might also keep the district from being hit with a lawsuit because Carlsbad attorney Leon Page had given the district until Friday to reverse the ban against Sterling and Horton or he would sue the district to do so.

Page has said that the board’s ban disenfranchised voters who elected both members to have a seat at the table in public sessions and closed-door hearings.

Page’s attorney Ronald Cozad said Thursday that he might not go forward witha lawsuit because Sterling is already challenging the board’s discipline in court.

“The board made a strategic decision today,” Cozad said.

Thursday’s decisions came after CEO Larry Anderson implored the board to ban both members for the rest of their terms, calling Sterling and Horton’s actions despicable and illegal.

He reserved his harshest words for Sterling, whom he called a “double agent” for disclosing information to attorneys and clients suing the district.

“It is time for the world to learn the stories of two directors, whom the public unwittingly elected to the board … without knowledge of their attempt to deceive the public. The deception comes in the form of their repeated violations of their duties of care, loyalty and obedience,” Anderson read from a prepared statement.

The board has censured Sterling eight times on allegations of being disruptive and hostile to staff. The board has filed several lawsuits against her and sought restraining orders to keep her off hospital grounds except for an emergency.

The courts have ruled against the district in its request for a permanent restraining order.

Horton has been censured once.

Anderson and Allison Borkenheim, a labor attorney with the district, each took about 10 minutes outlining Horton’s and Sterling’s alleged misconduct.

Borkenheim offered case law that she said supported the board’s actions, including a Virginia case in which a judge upheld a Board of Supervisors’ effort to strip a supervisor of his committee assignments.

“There is a legal precedent for Tri-City’s exclusion of directors Sterling and Horton for their misconduct,” Borkenheim said.

Before the meeting, the board took an unusual step to publicly disclose information discussed in closed session that hospital administrators said showed Horton and Sterling violated the closed-session confidentiality on multiple occasions.

Horton, according to the documents, informed a doctor that the district was firing him and said he would continue to divulge information to Sterling despite being told not to.

Sterling, according to the documents, repeatedly disclosed information to parties suing the district.

“What we have here is the tip of the iceberg,” Coulter said.

Sterling, who was elected to the board in 1998, 2004 and 2008 and is up for re-election in 2012, denied the allegations and argued that the information the board presented lacked appropriate foundation. Many of the affidavits were from people repeating secondhand information and the board’s own lawsuit filings, she added.

Several members of the audience spoke in defense of Sterling and Horton.

Silvia Peters, a local activist, said Tri-City’s accusations lacked substance and pointed out that Sterling has defeated the district in several legal actions against her.

“I am appalled and sickened by all of you,” Peters said. “I have seen your circus in the courtroom, and it does not amount to anything.”

Several other members of the public spoke in favor of the district, which serves Vista, Carlsbad and Oceanside, commending it for its work.

The Tri-City Healthcare District is governed by publicly elected Board of Directors, who represent the residents of Carlsbad, Oceanside and Vista.
RoseMarie V. Reno Chairperson
Larry Schallock Vice Chairperson
Cyril Kellett, MD Secretary
George Coulter Treasurer
Charlene Anderson Assistant Secretary
Randy Horton Member, Board of Directors
Kathleen Sterling Member, Board of Directors

...So what exactly is at the crux of all the fighting over Tri-City?
Randy Dotinga
Voice of San Diego
May 30, 2011

...This one's a toughie. Here are some theories:

• Mutual disregard: Jerry Salyer, a local insurance broker who unsuccessfully ran for the board in 2002, blames the unusually large size of the board for some of its dysfunction. (It has seven members instead of the usual five.) He also points to a toxic atmosphere of disrespect. "They don't respect one another," he said in an interview, adding: "I think they're fighting to fight."...

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