The tale of the out-of-control Andersons (CEO Larry and board member Charlene--no relation) and their odd little co-conspirators continues at Tri-City Hospital.
Paralegal says Tri-City report is wrong
She balks at hospital's version of events involving board member Kathleen Sterling
San Diego Union-Tribune
Nov. 17, 2011
Oceanside — In making their case that elected Tri-City Healthcare District board member Kathleen Sterling should remain excluded from closed session meetings for the rest of her term, administrators cited what they considered traitorous activity.
At a meeting last month, Tri-City attorney Allison Borkenheim offered a sworn affidavit saying that paralegal Linda Elsner informed district officials that Sterling in 2003 or 2004 divulged confidential information to her law office, which was suing the district.
In response to the report, the public hospital board voted 5-1 to keep excluding Sterling from closed session, where issues such as CEO Larry Anderson’s performance and the strategic direction of the hospital are discussed.
The Watchdog contacted Elsner to verify Tri-City’s statements. Elsner said Tri-City officials misrepresented what she said — that she specifically told them Sterling shared only public information.
“How can they get away with this?” Elsner said. “How can they say I said these things and put them out as fact when I didn’t say them?”
Tri-City officials declined to be interviewed and issued a statement that they stand by Borkenheim’s affidavit and the belief that Sterling divulged confidential information to Elsner.
“The accounting set forth information provided by Linda Elsner, which she reported to at least four individuals in separate conversations, that Kathleen Sterling actively provided assistance to parties directly involved in legal matters against Tri-City Medical Center,” the statement said.
“Kathleen Sterling received information, some of which was confidential, while she was a member of the board. Under the state’s Ralph M. Brown Act, information deemed to be confidential is expected to remain confidential, and not arbitrarily made public at any point, unless the board authorizes its release. Ms. Sterling used that information to aid parties in litigation against the hospital.”
Elsner worked for personal injury lawyer Jennifer Lynch, who was pressing an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit against Tri-City on behalf of patient Thomas Corelis over a surgery.
Elsner said she met Sterling while working on the Corelis case at the Vista courthouse. Sterling approached her and asked her if she was doing work on a lawsuit against Tri-City. When Elsner said yes, Sterling said she could give her information that could help.
Sterling later met with the attorney and pointed her in the direction of a report by the Joint Commission, an accreditation agency, on Tri-City.
Reached Thursday, Sterling confirmed that she gave public information to the plaintiff’s legal team at the time — when she was not a board member — in the hopes it would improve care at the hospital.
“I never gave them anything confidential,” she said.
Elsner said that this year, a former intern at her law firm mentioned the encounter to Charles Perez, the president of Tri-City business partner Medical Acquisition Co.
For months, Elsner said, Perez and Tri-City officials sought her cooperation in their ongoing probe of Sterling for alleged disloyalty to the hospital.
On April 25, Elsner said, she received a call from the former intern, again asking for information. Elsner said she told her that it was not a good time to contact her because she was going through personal and financial issues, including a car that needed the engine replaced, which would cost $3,000.
“She said, ‘Charlie could help you out, right?’” Elsner said. “And then Charles said, ‘Of course. All we need you to do is talk to these people and tell them what you know about Sterling.’”
Elsner said she did not accept any money. She said she told her story to District Attorney’s investigators, who took no action on a Tri-City complaint against Sterling regarding the incident. The DA’s office declined to comment.
Perez told The Watchdog, “My company had a professional relationship to Ms. Elsner for a couple of years and appreciated her law firm business referrals. I have never offered Ms. Elsner any money to break attorney-client privileges. My only involvement at the meeting was to introduce Ms. Elsner to Tri-City.”
Elsner said that on May 3, she met with Anderson, Borkenheim and Perez — the meeting Borkenheim described in her affidavit. Lynch, Elsner’s boss, attended by speaker phone.
Contacted for this story, Lynch corroborated Elsner’s account that Tri-City officials were told Sterling divulged no confidential information to them.
Borkenheim’s affidavit says she strongly believes that Sterling helped Elsner with other cases against Tri-City.
“I believe this because Ms. Elsner, when recounting discussions with Ms. Sterling to me said ‘in the first case...’ leading me to believe that there were other cases or matters in which Ms. Sterling sought to give or gave assistance,” the affidavit says.
Elsner told The Watchdog that’s not so. According to Elsner and a records search by The Watchdog, her law office had no other cases against Tri-City.