Friday, December 19, 2008

Tri-City Health Care District Hospital places CEO on administrative leave and fires school attorney Woody Merrill

To see all posts on Tri-City Healthcare, click HERE.

UPDATE DECEMBER 25, 2008: In my opinion, Burke Williams & Sorenson law firm is no better than former Tri-City lawyer Woody Merrill. Reform is needed, but none
of these lawyers is interested in reform. Maybe the public should sell the hospital (cheap) to employees. (See Logan Jenkins' article.)

Tri-City Medical Center CEO Art Gonzalez has been placed on administrative leave. At a closed-session meeting yesterday Tri-City Health Care District Hospital (Oceanside) placed CEO Art Gonzalez and administrators who worked closely with him on administrative leave.

At the December 18, 2008 board meeting, Michael J. Williams of C.M. de Crinis & Co. in Sherman Oaks was hired to do a forensic audit of hospital books.

At the same meeting the board fired legal counsel William W. "Woody" Merrill, who is also one of the preferred attorneys doing work for San Diego County Office of Education. Merrill works for Best, Best and Krieger, a firm that has many contracts with public agencies in San Diego. Mr. Merrill's wife, Michelle Fort-Merrill, works for SDCOE-JPA, and is currently being sued by Rodger Hartnett, a former SDCOE-JPA employee.

Merrill was replaced by Julie Biggs, a Riverside attorney who works for Burke, Williams & Sorenson.

The San Diego Union-Tribune notes that legal counsel from Musick, Peeler & Garrett was also fired.

The North County Times writes:

...[Kathleen] Sterling and [George]Coulter did say they thought it was time for new legal counsel.

"I think it's important that we give control back to the people and the organization," Sterling said. "The board has by all appearances abdicated their authority to the CEO and it was time to re-evaluate our relationship with Best, Best & Krieger (and) Woody Merrill."

"I feel that these attorneys weren't doing what was right for the board or the public," Coulter said.

A year and a half ago Tri-City trustee Kathleen Sterling objected to financial irregularities at the hospital.

The board has tried for a long time to muzzle Ms. Sterling, and at one time hired a private security firm to follow her. North County Times published various articles about Sterling:
April 27, 2007
Oct. 31, 2005

Sterling was recently reelected.

Channel 6 covered protests in 2004 when Gonzalez and others were given $2 million in bonuses.

On June 1, 2007 Paul Sisson of the North County Times noted that Gonzalez was making $436,000 a year in base salary, and that the governing board had approved two raises:

On a 5-2 vote, with hospital directors Kathleen Sterling and RoseMarie Reno opposed, the board increased Gonzalez's base salary from $436,000 to $457,000. The raise is retroactive to Oct. 3. A second 5-2 vote along the same lines will increase the chief executive's base salary to $483,000 on Oct. 3 this year. Gonzalez's contract with Tri-City requires that his salary be reviewed annually and adjusted to keep his pay in the 65th percentile of hospital chiefs at similar-sized medical institutions nationwide...

Gonzalez earns a base annual salary of $483,000. The board voted recently to pay him a $90,000 bonus for 2008.

Other articles about Tri-City and Woody Merrill:

Opposition statement to Tri-City bond challenged; September 7, 2006

Tri-City sues doctor for breach of contract; July 9, 2007

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