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September 23, 2023

Letter: Hospital should disclose details of expenses

Open letter to Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital Interim CEO Mary Casillas:

You are interim chief executive officer of the San Benito Health Care District, also known as Hazel Hawkins Hospital. It is a public entity, not your private company to spend funds without having to disclose what they are for. California learned much about public entities overpaying employees, hiding expenses and other corruption in the city of Bell, California, scandal, and increased disclosure requirements as a result. We will revisit Bell later in this letter.

Hazel Hawkins Hospital has paid financial advisory firm B. Riley almost $1 million since December. That is a lot of money for a troubled institution to pay to anyone, and we have a right to know what activities we are paying for.

I submitted a public records request for the invoices. I did receive them, but save for bottom line totals, the pages were all redacted (the information of what we were being billed for was blacked out). I pushed back on that, and received your response (“Documents or information protected under the attorney work product privilege, documents or information protected under the attorney-client privilege, and documents or information, where the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosing the record”).

What is curious about your response is that B. Riley was engaged for financial advisory services, not legal representation. Furthermore, you have stated publicly that the financial advisors have been consulted in cash-conservation measures, so how is the activity secret? 

Even if B. Riley helped your attorney, surely that was what all the $1 million was for.

Bell, California experienced a rebirth into success by replacing all involved in their secrets. The new city manager, Doug Willmore, writes, “And do it all transparently. Sunshine is a good thing and especially for Bell at that time. The city council was committed to transparency. It was supportive of almost everything that could be done to share information with the public and open up the doors of city government so that anyone could see what was going on.”

Mary, you and your board need to become clean with what is going on at Hazel Hawkins Hospital. Take the high road and disclose information when requested, unless it clearly falls under attorney-client-litigation protection. Any reasonable person could surmise that your financial advisors are not doing legal work. 

The salaries you, other executives, and your consultants are earning given the financial wreck we are facing demands transparency. Please send me the documents with nothing redacted.

Robert E. Bernosky


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