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Health care district: Hickey re-elected but loses his battle

Original post made on Nov 5, 2014

A longtime plan by Sequoia Healthcare District board member Jack Hickey to have voters decide on the future of the district met with failure again on Tuesday, although Mr. Hickey and two other incumbents -- Dr. Gerald Shefren and Art Faro -- were re-elected to the board.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 5, 2014, 12:19 AM

Comments (32)

Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Nov 5, 2014 at 5:32 am

pogo is a registered user.

My thanks and gratitude to candidates Hickey, De Paula and McDowell for their efforts on behalf of voters and tax payers. Although two were not successful, they still took the time and effort to try to make a difference in our community and I appreciate it.

While I congratulate the winners, it is my hope that Dr. Shefren and Mr. Faro will note the large numbers of votes that these three candidates received (Mr. Hickey received the second largest number of votes). These voters are asking for is the courtesy of a voice in such a major change to the hospital district. Show integrity - give the voters the referendum they deserve.

Yesterday's election sent a message to elected officials across the country that they ignore voters at their own peril. Officials in San Mateo County should not be exempt.


Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Nov 5, 2014 at 9:05 am

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

Thank You Mr. Hickey, Mark De Paula and John McDowell

You offered the property owners a chance, the organized vote from Chess Dr, Foster City wins again.


Posted by H Park
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Nov 5, 2014 at 9:17 am

DePaula and McDowell hitched to the wrong wagon - a decade long incumbent that claims he wants to eliminate his job. They need to run again, this time with a new partner, and find a fresh new face without the baggage.


Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 5, 2014 at 9:33 am

[Post removed. Off topic.]


Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Nov 5, 2014 at 12:06 pm

I thank all of those who supported our team here and at the ballot box. There is still hope for John McDowell who only trails Art Faro by 1,228 votes, with ~20,000 remaining. It would be nice to have someone on the board to second my motions.
Shefren and Faro should be congratulated for their stealth campaign which avoided on-line forums and let union phone banks and the JIT taxpayer funded annual report by the district do the work.

I intend to enlist stakeholders in my effort to bring about a resolution of the healthcare district's transitional status. The status quo is not an option.


Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 5, 2014 at 12:37 pm

@ H Park - if you understood the basic issue, you might view it differently. Hickey seeks to eliminate the collection of taxes for the benefit of an entity which no longer exists. Why should taxpayers have to support a hospital which is no longer public? It privatized years ago & is now part of Dignity Health.

I voted for Mr Hickey & his team.


Posted by H Park
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Nov 5, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Downtowner - thank you, I understand the issue. I also understand the players. A failure to do anything in ten years is "plain as day". It's possibly/probably the correct message; it's demonstrably the wrong leader. If the sole success of the "leader" over ten years is getting himself re-elected, then perhaps some should step back and see the forest instead of the tree.

Your next argument will be to defer to another angle ("how is he the wrong guy, if he got so many votes?") but you obviously see my point. If you do not, well then, please move forward with the same standard bearer, and we can return to the same discussion next time.

Au revoir.


Posted by Kim Griffin, RN
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 5, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Ultimately voters understood the mission of the Health Care District is in their best interest. The issue of no longer supporting a hospital is moot when we are providing basic health services that are in fact saving the tax payer money. Many of these services are preventative. Most people understand the efficacy of prevention rather than paying for health care only when one becomes ill. Dental care, the Healthy School Program, chronic disease management, post hospitalization case management, the Heart Safe Program, which has already saved the lives of district residents are just a few of the services that benefit all district residents. Next year we will begin a high school cardiac screening program that detects cardiac anomalies in a population where sudden cardiac events are a leading cause of death. It saddens me to see even a few disgruntled people who do not recognize both the value and sound ethics of these programs.


Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Nov 5, 2014 at 1:41 pm

pogo is a registered user.

Kim -

The district was approved by voters to fund and oversee a hospital, not to give money to worthy and charitable causes.

The grand jury and taxpayers have repeated stated that this change in mission, however worthwhile, is not part of the voter approved mission. Shefren and Faro were steadfastly opposed to any referendum.

If you truly believe that the district's revised mission reflects the current wishes of voters and taxpayers, then you would embrace - not fear - a referendum.


Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 5, 2014 at 2:50 pm


I agree with Kim's statement:
"Ultimately voters understood the mission of the Health Care District is in their best interest."
The election was, in effect, the referendum POGO is asking for. That the voters have rejected Hickey's plans for the past 10 years should make it quite clear that they appreciate the services the hospital district still provides. They do not want the plan Hickey is proposing.


Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 5, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Not all matters are best decided by a vote of the people, particularly complicated matters.

On its face, this is a simple matter. It's easy to say that the county has the wherewithal to take up the slack of the healthcare district. Just look at the organization chart. There surely are people and agencies available.

There can be great value in what happens over time. This system is actually working! It has evolved to serve people who would have few if any alternatives were it to go away.

Throw it open to the voters because of a principle? Because of a technicality? How are you going to explain to the voters what is really at stake? Seriously, how are you going to represent the plight of the people this system now serves? This is small potatoes in terms of actual revenue per property owner, but huge to the people at the other end.

It's an old statement but still essentially true. Libertarians know the price of everything and the value of nothing.


Posted by H Park
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Nov 5, 2014 at 3:26 pm

"Libertarians know the price of everything and the value of nothing"

Oh, my.


Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Nov 5, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Nurse Kim, tell us about your "cardiac screening training session" in San Diego, at taxpayers expense, and how it might benefit you and the business of your husband (and employer) when the district begins "...a high school cardiac screening program..." Director Kim Griffin works for her husband's Children's Cardiology of the Bay area. One of their services is athletic screening.
See:Web Link

Doesn't this sound like conflict of interest?

But then Joe says: "This is small potatoes in terms of actual revenue per property owner, but huge to the people at the other end." That's a slippery slope, Joe, are you sure you want to go there?

Note, cardiac screening programs already exist as mentioned in the weblink.


Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Nov 5, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Wouldn't it have been more appropriate for Nurse Griffin to resign from the board so that she could present a grant request for her husband's business which the board could consider? Board members have been asked to resign over conflict issues of a lesser degree in the past. Dr. Edwin Katz is an example. See: Web Link


Posted by Kim Griffin, RN
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 5, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Re: Cardiac Screening
No conflict of interest here. Cardiac referrals are done at the discretion of the primary care provider and we cannot "self-refer". My interest in the cardiac screening program is a result of seeing many tragic cases of young people who have died from an undiagnosed heart problem. Athletic screening is also done at the discretion of the primary physician. The focus of the cardiac screening program in the schools will be according to age; not sports participation. While in San Diego I evaluated the efficacy of the screening program. We identified six life threatening heart defects before ten in the morning. One student had cardiomyopathy and was sent directly to a hospital. Typically those children die suddenly without any warning. How could we not consider offering this to our district residents? All of the providers who are participating in the screening program will do so on a volunteer basis. This program is a good example of how you put dollars to work to both save lives and save money through preventative measures.


Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Nov 5, 2014 at 5:14 pm

pogo is a registered user.

"Throw it open to the voters because of a principle? Because of a technicality?"

When the charter of a voter approved agency is no longer in existence, that's hardly a technicality. And having the voters approve a revised charter - which they originally approved - is principle.

The bureaucrats who run the agency have no authority to make such a change. Even the grand jury agreed.


Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Nov 5, 2014 at 5:24 pm

pogo is a registered user.

Kim -

As an elected official, you must know the rules of disclosure and conflicts of interest. The disclosure of a conflict is not subject to the discretion of the official. The mere "appearance" of a conflict and subsequent recusal assures the public that the dealings are honest and legitimate. You should never have any involvement with funding that goes to your husband's company. I'm sure you consider yourself to be an honest person with integrity which is precisely why you should never be involved with those dealings. Period.

And just because you may do "good deeds" does not allow much less justify changing the charter or mission of a voter approved agency. Suppose voters approved a tax to fund the construction and management of a new bridge to ease traffic. But the board members of this "bridge district" decide instead to use those funds to build a bike path. The project is going to benefit the public and it is transportation related. Do you think voters who approved the bridge and a tax to ease traffic should have a say in this change?

Neither does your district.


Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 5, 2014 at 5:36 pm

It is a technicality. We disagree.

As for the district's authority to change its mission, I believe that was done under the auspices of state legislation.

I wonder why the legislature saw fit to trust districts to make such changes. Perhaps because the issue was too complicated for a referendum? I think good faith is relevant here. Yes, there is bureaucratic inertia as well, but so what?

If the voters haven't risen up in outrage, maybe that's because they aren't outraged and see the wisdom of what was done in their name.


Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Nov 5, 2014 at 5:48 pm

pogo is a registered user.

Joe -

Yours is the saddest commentary I've read in quite a while. It must be strangely comforting to so blindly trust your government. What a great excuse - it's far too complex for the people who foot the bill to understand.

Amazing. No wonder our elections turn out the way they do.

"The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere." - Thomas Jefferson


Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 5, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Rebellion is good once in a while. I don't want to participate in a rebellion that hurts people who can't protect themselves.

I'm fine with rebellion that strips away the personhood of powerful corporations and takes money out of politics, that cuts the rhetorical legs out from under climate change deniers, that shames politicians whose sole mission in life is obstruction.

But I don't go after poor people. People who are into mean-spirited capitalism often do, something that continues to shock me. Greed should be shameful, but it isn't, thanks in large part to Ronald Reagan and people like Milton Friedman who made it respectable.


Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 5, 2014 at 6:13 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Joe:

who's talking about going after poor people? The district can be dissolved and the funding can continue just through the county instead of an agency with a board and overpaid staff.


Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 5, 2014 at 6:23 pm

That the county would take over is the argument behind the proposal for dissolution. I don't buy it, at least not the way it was presented -- as a theoretical resolution to the problem of continued funding.

If the county and the healthcare district were to get together before a vote on dissolution and map out how to take over the district's services, I would be fine with that. Maybe it could be worked out. Because there is the matter of the executive making nearly $200,000. That is odious.

I did not see or hear any evidence of a coordinated effort that would result in a smooth transition. If that were part of the plan, I would have no problem with a orderly dissolution.


Posted by H Park
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Nov 5, 2014 at 6:52 pm

"If that were part of the plan, I would have no problem with a orderly dissolution."

That would get 80-90% voter approval. Do McDowell and DePaula plan on laying out a plan before trying again? Hickey has yet to do a plan, and initiate discussions, in ten years.


Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Nov 5, 2014 at 7:09 pm

pogo is a registered user.

Joe is simply trying to make this about something it is not.

Rebellion is when voters aren't consulted when their tax dollars are being misappropriated. In this case, the tax revenues are not being sent to the hospital as promised, they are being donated to causes deemed worthwhile by a small group of bureaucrats, organizations that are, in some cases, friends and family of the board's directors.

And people wonder why trust in government is at all time low.


Posted by Johns
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 5, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Everyone loves to play Santa Claus with the taxpayers' money ....


Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 6, 2014 at 4:12 pm

I come upon a reasonable and workable solution to this whole issue -- a smooth transition of district services to the county -- and what is the reaction? I'm said to be changing the subject.

What is the subject? The story says the slate planned to suspend the district's grants and drop peoples' taxes until such time as a vote could be taken.

What about the recipients of those grants? What do they do in the meantime?

The joke here is that, while the slate could have indeed lowered peoples' taxes, once the vote for dissolution has happened, their taxes go up again. The lowering of taxes would have been temporary. What is the point of that? Is it, per chance, a simple -- and I emphasize simple -- hatred of taxes? All taxes?

Suspending the grants would have been a brutal thing to do. There is no denying that. It would have been injurious, to poor people.

Actually lowering property taxes would have been a disingenuous move meant to foment the property owning public toward Libertarian outrage after their taxes went back up again -- because they would have gone back up. They cannot be lowered permanently.

Come on, Libertarians. Deny it.


Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Nov 6, 2014 at 4:57 pm

pogo is a registered user.

Joe -

I don't take issue with your solution which is, of course, entirely hypothetical now.

But if the county assumes the responsibilities of this district, how is "suspending grants a brutal thing to do?" No one suggested that.

I cannot speak for others. I am suggesting (a) a voter referendum to confirm the change in the district's new mission and (b) assuming voters agree, to move these responsibilities to the County's health department.


Posted by Stephen T
a resident of Woodside: other
on Nov 6, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Jack had ten years to do an actual transition plan and has done nothing but run for reelection.

He now has a couple years to work out a plan with the county.

If he is "f'real", that is.....

But we ALL know Jack could care less about continued services, otherwise he would have done SOMETHING in the last ten or twelve years.

Zero, zip, nada.


Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 6, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Pogo - When speaking of grants being suspended, I was referring to an Almanac article in which the slate said they would "suspend the district's grant-making," an action that would need only a majority on the district's board.

If the district were to suspend grants to the Fair Oaks Clinic and the Ravenswood Clinic, where does that leave them and their patients? For how long?

The clinics may see the funds restored after the district is dissolved, but it would be up to the county government to hear the clinics' pleading and decide to restore the funding. I think it's fair to say that it would be complicated and drawn out by bureaucratic process.

That uncertainty, when it did not have to be that way, I consider brutal. The slate gets what it wants, but what about the people whose funding has suddenly gone away by the action of an electorate that did not fully understand the issue as proposed by a slate that, from what I can tell, did not arrange for a smooth transition?

Maybe they talked about it with the county or thought about it, but I didn't see any evidence.

Let's say the vote were a matter of up or down on a new mission for the district, with the current mission including an executive being paid $200,000. Let's say the voters say yes to a new mission. Let's say that the district board did not arrange a transition plan -- before the vote and in an abundance of good faith -- for the county to smoothly take over the funding if the voters say dissolve.

Are the voters going to see that a plan is missing and that dissolution means great uncertainty for the grant recipients? That's a stretch.

The district goes away and the tax money finds its way to other public agencies. The clinics may be left with no leverage.

And I would like to hear a rationale for the slate saying it would temporarily lower district property taxes if elected, only to see them raised again once the district is dissolved and the dust clears. Is that a tax holiday? Is it a protest by three guys and the people who supported them? It seems arbitrary and unfair.


Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Nov 6, 2014 at 8:13 pm

pogo is a registered user.

Joe -

As I said, it's a moot point now.

With regard to Hickey's inability to do this before, he has been outvoted by a 4-1 margin during his entire tenure. It's not like he didn't try!

That is why Hickey personally recruited a slate in the hopes that if all 3 won seats in this election, they would constitute a majority of the board. Their only pledge was to hold a referendum and allow voters the chance to weigh in on the new mission. Obviously, I concurred with this but a majority of voters did not agree with me.

Your point about this transition issue is valid, but no one suggested that there would be any moment in time when a recipient agency would not receive funding. I don't see why this responsibility couldn't be assumed instantly by county staff in a more efficient manner (and without a bunch of unnecessary directors and a highly compensated CEO) without interruption. Furthermore, the district has a pretty substantial surplus and could easily fund "in advance" to prevent any disruptions.

While your point is absolutely valid, it is a transition detail - an important one, but hardly reason to dismiss the bigger issue that this district was approved for a hospital that was sold. It would be like saying we shouldn't rebuild the Bay Bridge because the requirement for temporary lanes during construction might be inconvenient. Yes, it's an important detail but it should be manageable and is hardly a reason to stop the project.


Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Nov 7, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Joe, the "...rationale for the slate saying it would temporarily lower district property taxes if elected..." was intended to bring the stakeholders to the table. It's a moot point now. Shefren has control.

And, you said: If the county and the healthcare district were to get together before a vote on dissolution and map out how to take over the district's services, I would be fine with that." I agree, and that's a process which would have been expedited by election of the team.

Shefren has no plans for pursuing a solution to the transitional status of the districts as defined by LAFCo. I do. But now it will be more difficult.

I spoke with LAFCo CEO Martha Poyatos yesterday. LAFCo is the agency which must come up with the plan for an orderly transition. The 2012-2013 Grand Jury cited the lack of a current, professional Municipal Service Review(MSR) by LAFCo. This would provide much of the information necessary to make the transition to either expand the district to encompass the entire county, or to identify successor agencies if dissolution is the voter's choice. LAFCo does not currently have the power to make such changes without a ballot measure. LAFCo also has not had the funding for a professional MSR. My request that the Sequoia Healthcare District board fund the ~$70,000 necessary for such an MSR was rejected.
Martha told me that funding is becoming available and such a review is forthcoming.

Joe, I think that we all agree that the "status quo" is not an option. Perhaps you can persuade Shefren and Faro to enter into a dialogue on how to resolve the transitional status of the districts. I invited them to join in such a dialogue in this forum, but they declined. Web Link

I have also contacted the San Mateo County Office of Education. They are aware of the funding aberration for county schools, resulting from healthcare district subsidies, which is in conflict with the spirit of Serrano Priest.
They know that the status quo will not resolve that issue.

I don't have all the answers, but I will sit down with those of you who can help bring a solution to the problem.

Mornings in West Menlo is best for me. Jack Hickey is in the book. Give me a call.


Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Mar 6, 2015 at 11:43 am

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

The silence is deafening.

Meanwhile, the District continues under the leadership of 3rd place finisher, Art Faro, who was elected President of the Board once again. You may remember Art as one of the three Directors, who, as sitting Directors voted themselves each a health insurance premium benefit of $1,800. Web Link
Now in my 4th 4 year term on the Board, I have been once again been denied a term at the helm.
As your "watchdog" on the Board I am pleased to report that, at our February meeting, Jerry Shefren questioned the use of district funds to support activities for which school districts are responsible. That brought the activities of the Healthy Schools Initiative(HSI) into question. I requested invoices from CEO, Lee Michelson, regarding two questionable disbursements charged to that program.
....One was for a $1,020 payment to marketing consultant Stacey Holmes pursuant to a contract entered into by Pamela Kurtzman, HSI Program Director, on behalf of the District. Here are the relevant terms of that contract:
COMPLETION OF WELLNESS NEWSLETTER PILOT PROJECT
2.3. The work performed by Ms. Holmes shall be performed at the following rate: $60 per hour for up to 36 hours. Here is a copy of the first deliverable:
Web Link
***NOTE* At the meeting, I asked Ms. Kurtzman if this was not PR. She acknowledged that it was.
....The other questionable disbursement involved $ 2,304.78 in VISA charges by Jennifer Gabet, Manager, PE+ Program which involved travel expenses for Redwood City Employees associated with the Program.

Here is my e-mail exchange with the CEO:

From: [email protected] [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Tuesday, March 03, 2015 4:01 PM
To: [email protected]
Cc: Art Faro
Subject: Re: Invoices for Ck #'s 6897 and 6898

Lee, some questions:

1. Has Pamela Kurtzman filed a Form 700? Why is she hiring a Marketing Consultant?

2. Why is Jennifer Gabet paying for travel and Conference expenses for Redwood City Employees?

3. Is the $5,000 limit for the credit card she used a District limit, or her personal limit? Should Jennifer file a Form 700?

4. Jennifer Gabet has purchased a one-year Gold plan from Survey Monkey. Will directors get to approve surveys to be done in the district’s name?

On a related note, a statement by PE+ coach Josh Feierstein, of Redwood City Parks and Rec., on Linkedin states:

“This is a first year program put in place by the Redwood City Parks and Recreation Department that is supplementing physical education to 4 different elementary schools that lost their PE programs due to budget cuts. I am very excited to be a part of this new project!



At our last meeting, Jerry Shefren raised concerns about District funds being used for things which are clearly the responsibility of other government agencies. (Like school districts)

Jack Hickey

From: [email protected]
Sent: Tuesday, March 03, 2015 4:10 PM
To: [email protected]
Subject: RE: Invoices for Ck #'s 6897 and 6898

Why would they file a form 700? The marketing consultant is writing a school newsletter for us. The conference expenses are for our PE+ leaders. Why would you possibly think that you would get to approve our surveys?

From: [email protected]
Sent: Wednesday, March 04, 2015 11:57 AM
To: [email protected]
Cc: Art Faro
Subject: Re: Invoices for Ck #'s 6897 and 6898

I don’t expect that “I” would get to approve surveys done in the district’s name. I do think that Directors should be invited to comment on such surveys.
I didn’t see your signature on the Independent Contractor Agreement. An employee of the district with power to consummate such agreements should be required to file a Form 700.











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