5/30/2014 6:00:00 AM TIMES EDITORIAL: An outside critique of the Palo Verde Hospital Board
So far, the board majority has wielded the absolute power that Lord Acton talked about, and that situation is likely to get worse now that two board members who traditionally opposed the board majority’s self-serving actions have resigned and their replacements likely will be friendly to the current majority.
Ben Hansen PVVT Editorial Consultant
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
- Edmund Burke, Eighteenth Century Irish statesman
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
- John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, Nineteenth Century British statesman
In a nearly 50-year journalism career, I've had myriad opportunities to see the truth of those two statements unfold. The newspapers I led as editor won many awards for exposing evil people who abused their power. But beginning in the 1980s, I noticed that even though our journalistic peers often honored our work, the stories revealing public misfeasance rarely aroused a sufficient moral outrage in the community to right those wrongs. People are ignorant, preoccupied and - in some cases - indifferent if the bad behavior either benefits them or doesn't hurt them.
Never have I seen the truth of those quotations and that public indifference dynamic more blatantly at work than in Blythe. In the summer of 2012, I came out of retirement to become a consultant for the Palo Verde Valley Times on behalf of its parent company. I spoke on the phone almost daily with Debbie White-Hoel and the staff and read every bit of news and editorial copy in the paper and online comments - most of them before they went into print. I spent three weeks in town in late September and early October of 2013 when a lot was going on. The city manager resigned, and the district attorney arrested the chief of staff at Palo Verde Hospital on charges of two counts each of grand theft and conflict of interest. In January of this year, authorities arrested a member of the hospital governing board on charges of violating California Code 1090 which prohibits a public official from voting on an issue in which he or she has a financial interest. She apparently collected rent from the chief of staff on a home her husband co-owned with her niece.
Additionally, although no one in authority yet has questioned the legality of the situation, the chairwoman of the hospital board owns a fixed-wing air ambulance service that the hospital chief of staff has directed all doctors to use in transferring patients. The chairwoman's domestic partner was a key force in getting CALTRANS to shut down the hospital helipad.
Oh yes, the hospital chief of staff not only still holds that position but he also just received a contract renewal. The recently arrested hospital board member is still there, too, and the board has voted to pay some of her legal expenses. On that point the hospital administrator says the chief of staff and board member are presumed innocent under the law until convicted in court.
They definitely deserve the presumption of innocence as would the officer of a bank accused of embezzlement or a member of the board of directors accused of a crime that could bring discredit on the bank.
The bank certainly would want to grant those individuals their rights under the law, but how many depositors would want to leave their money in that bank while individuals accused of serious crimes remained in key positions there? The smart thing for the bank to do would be to assure the presumption of innocence but also protect its reputation, depositors and stockholders. It at least would suspend those individuals and make it clear to depositors and stockholders that they had removed the possibility of any additional questions about illegal behavior.
So far, the board majority has wielded the absolute power that Lord Acton talked about, and that situation is likely to get worse now that two board members who traditionally opposed the board majority's self-serving actions have resigned and their replacements likely will be friendly to the current majority.
So far, most of the good people in Blythe - with no respect toward the wisdom of Edmund Burke - have done nothing about it. The community needs to find good people to run for the three board seats up for election in November and support them. Unlike the bank parable in private enterprise, either the people or the prosecutors have to resolve issues of government misfeasance. The prosecutors have their shoulders to the grindingly slow wheels of justice on some of the issues.
But will the people continue to do nothing with an odious, inevitable consequence?