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home : latest news : latest news February 5, 2016

3/7/2013 5:00:00 PM
FPPC rules Hudson has conflict and can't vote on issues concerning hospital chief of staff, Sahlolbei

Marty Bachman

BLYTHE - The Fair Political Practice Commission (FPPC) has ruled that Palo Verde Healthcare District Board Member Sandy Hudson has a conflict of interest when voting on issues concerning the hospital's chief of staff, Dr. Hossain Sahlolbei, on issues concerning Sahlolbei's privileges at the hospital and his lawsuits involving the hospital.

Healthcare District attorney Jeff Scott wrote the FPPC seeking clarification of the board members' status after a former Riverside County District Attorney, Grover Trask, penned a report outlining the conflicts Hudson, Trina Sartin, Sam Burton and Quitty Pinon had.

In a Feb. 21 letter, FPPC general counsel Zackery P. Morazzini stated that Hudson had a direct conflict, because until September 2012, she had collected rent from Sahlolbei for a property her husband and his niece co-own.

"The rent checks were made payable to Boardmember Hudson and totaled more than $500," Morazzini wrote. "Dr. Sahlolbei was the tenant paying rent until January 2013. While you state that the rent payments were collected on behalf of the niece, you also stated that they were used to pay the mortgage and other expenses related to the property that the Boardmember's husband co-owns. Boardmember Hudson therefore has an economic interest in Dr. Sahlolbei as a source of income if her community property share of the income was greater than $500 in the 12 months before a decision."

Morazzini wrote that the Political Reform Act defines an economic interest in real property to include interests "owned directly, indirectly, or beneficially by the public official, or other filer, or his or her immediate family ...."

"... indirect interest means any interest in real property owned by the spouse or dependent child of a public official, by an agent on behalf of a public official, or by a business entity or trust in which the official, the official's agents, spouse, and dependent children own directly, indirectly, or beneficially a 10 percent interest or greater," Morazzini wrote. "Boardmember Hudson has an economic interest in the property that her husband owns with his niece."

He said that the FPPC has consistently found that, absent an explicit separate-property agreement, a public official has a reportable interest in her spouse's sources of income.

Scott first wrote the FPPC on Jan. 8 concerning the former DA's opinion noting potential conflicts of interest involving board members Hudson, Trina Sartin and Sam Burton's financial relationships with Sahlolbei.

"The three board members discussed... (Trina Sartin, Sandra Hudson, who took office in December, and Sam Burton) are understandably concerned about their rights and legal ability to participate in any decisions relative to Dr. Sahlolbei and his on-going relationship with the Hospital," Scott wrote in his letter. "In addition, these three board members have concerns that some of the information in the attached memorandum listed as factual background is in several instances incomplete, incorrect, or misleading. For example, Director Sartin had neither knowledge of, nor involvement in, Dr. Sahlolbei's apparent verbal promotion of her company's services to other members of the medical staff. Likewise, Director Burton had no prior awareness of the $1,000 contribution made to the church where he is employed as a minister, as it was received and processed by the church's financial manager."

Scott noted that Sahlolbei's staff privileges at the hospital are to expire soon and will be up for renewal and that he has an existing contract with the hospital to provide on-call services for emergency department coverage. He also mentioned Sahlolbei's involvement in three separate civil lawsuits in which PVHD is also a party.

"Consequently, there are a number of instances where prospective board actions may directly impact Dr. Sahlolbei, and the members in question need appropriate guidance in regard to same," Scott wrote.

Morazzini said that while staff at the FPPC was analyzing Scott's original request, the Board conducted a meeting during which several members voted on issues that related to his request for comment.

"Following that meeting, a formal complaint was filed with the FPPC's enforcement division," Morazzini wrote. "We informed you that the FPPC cannot issue advice on past conduct or on actions currently the subject of an enforcement complaint."

On Feb. 5, Scott sent a second letter in which he acknowledged that he learned the FPPC had received a third-party complaint against Sartin, Hudson and Burton concerning their Jan. 22 meeting votes to suspend the actions of the previous board, which included the authorization of the CEO to seek requests for proposals (RFP) to contract for medical transportation and surgery services at the hospital.

"From our phone conversation it is apparent that we respectfully disagree that the PVHD Board's action, taken at its meeting on January 22,2013, violated the financial conflict rules of the PRA (Political Reform Act)...," Scott wrote.

He wrote that the issuance of RFPs was the subject of legal action, filed by the hospital's medical staff, which sought injunctive relief to prevent the CEO from entering into an exclusive surgical contract for service at the hospital.

"Indeed, at the time the Board's action was taken on that issue, the Riverside County Superior Court had issued a temporary order restraining the Hospital CEO from so acting...," Scott wrote. "Therefore, as I explained in our phone conversation, the Board's action to suspend was preserving the status quo, consistent with a previously taken court action, and did not involve the awarding or non-awarding of any specific contract to any person or entity."

Scott then asked for clarification on the conflicts stated in the Trask report, concerning the board's conflicts in voting for Sahlolbei's re-appointment to the hospital medical staff, which is due for a board vote this month, the direction of litigation filed by Sahlolbei against PVHD, and the direction of litigation filed by PVHD against Sahlolbei and initiated by the board which pre-existed the November 2012 election results.

"At least part of the reason for enlisting the assistance of the Commission initially was our belief that the conflict allegations of the BB&K memorandum as to two of the Board members (Sartin and Burton) seemed rather tenuous," Scott wrote. "Nonetheless, those members remain justifiably concerned that, given the allegations of the BB&K memorandum - which was published by the local newspaper prior to the first meeting of the Board as currently constituted - their participation or non-participation follow the FPPC regulations."

Scott stated that the board decision to grant Sahlolbei continued privileges at the hospital had historical significance because approximately 10 years prior, the hospital management had tried to deny Sahlolbei re-appointment to the medical staff. Scott opined that the settlement of that suit included a significant financial award to Sahlolbei though the terms of the settlement never became public.

"The Board does not wish to repeat history, but neither do they wish to participate in decisions that would violate the conflict of interest provisions of the Fair Political Practices Act," Scott wrote. "In the absence of a Commission opinion and guidance on that issue, there will not be a quorum available to consider, let alone decide, the re-appointment issue. The lack of a decision could put the District in a vulnerable legal position and expose the Hospital to significant damages."

He said that similar concerns exist regarding the pending litigation matters, the pursuit of which will require action and direction from the PVHD Board.

The FPPC responded individually to all the decisions Scott had outlined in his letter on the direction of lawsuits - an injunction filed by medical staff to block exclusive contracts for surgeons and air transport services and a lawsuit between PVHD and Sahlolbei; Decisions on whether to extend PVHD's contract with Sahlolbei and the decisions on the direction of a lawsuit PVHD filed against Sahlolbei as sole defendant.

As for Sartin, the FPPC stated that neither the air transport company nor the ground transport company has initiated the proceedings in question, nor are they named or a subject of the decisions.

"Boardmember Sartin's economic interests are indirectly involved," Morazzini wrote.

As for Hudson, the FPPC stated that Sahlolbei is a named party to both lawsuits and is the subject of the proceeding regarding his contract.

"Boardmember Hudson's economic interest in this source of income is therefore directly involved," Morazzini wrote. "The real property her husband owns and in which she has an interest is not the subject of the lawsuits or the contract negotiation and are indirectly involved in the decisions."

Morazinnni contended that Burton's economic interest, the church as a source of income, is neither named in nor the subject of any governmental decision.

"It is therefore indirectly involved," he wrote.

Hudson told the Times that she managed the property for her niece, who moved to the coast, during the years she was off the board and that she quit taking care of it in September when she decided to seek a board seat. She said that she would not be allowed to vote on any agenda items that had to do with Sahlolbei for at least a year unless the rule of necessity kicks in, which provides that, in extreme circumstance, if too many board members have a conflict, one can be chosen to vote so that a quorum can be had.

Download the FPPC's response to Attorney Jeff Scott's letter

Download Attorney Jeff Scott's original letter sent to the FPPC on Jan. 8, 2013

Download Attorney Jeff Scott's letter sent to the FPPC on Feb. 5 2013

Download the FPPC's response to Attorney Jeff Scott's first letter

Related Stories:
• Hospital director Hudson arrested
• On-call pay cuts still leave doctors with above average pay
• Hospital continues to bleed money
• GUEST OPINION: Medical staff attorney responds to allegations
• TIMES EDITORIAL: No justice for the residents of Blythe and the valley
• Healthcare District Board drops suit against Sahlolbei
• Court grants Sahlolbei demurrer and motion to strike
• City Council hopes to work with hospital on helicopter issue
• TIMES EDITORIAL: No end in sight to Palo Verde Hospital drama
• Desert Air official fought to halt emergency helicopters from landing at hospital
• Emergency transport helicopters to be banned from landing at hospital
• TIMES EDITORIAL: District Attorney Paul Zellberbach owes Blythe more than an apology

Related Links:
• Hospital board dismisses interim-CEO and Chief Nursing Officer
• TIMES EDITORIAL: Conflicts at Palo Verde Hospital will soon cost someone their life
• Former DA warns board members of potential conflicts

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, March 8, 2013
Article comment by: Crazy Town

This should be interesting. I know a few people that work at the hospital and they all say what everyone knows and what PVVT has been saying for YEARS. How blind are those who can't see? The people who come on here and defend the actions of the MEC and the "new" board members, either have a vested interest or have been charmed by them. We have had a few really good people to sit on the board at PVH, Dr. Sahlolbei ran them off. It's not right and if everyone thought more of the little people than themselves, this wouldn't be happening. We could lose our hospital and it will be our fault. Thank You Marty and PVVT, the brownies are in the mail. lol

Posted: Friday, March 8, 2013
Article comment by: AJ McKay

@Too Many Stories . . . . Hahaha

Posted: Friday, March 8, 2013
Article comment by: AJ McKay

@Westcoast Mafia which Mustang would you be driving when you pick me up? Silly Rabbit . . . .

Posted: Friday, March 8, 2013
Article comment by: Phantom Nose

Come on AJ, twin Trina's partner lobbies the state to shut down the heliport which was competition to their business. Twin Sandy goes to the Counsel meeting. When a maverick counsel member has the nerve to bring up the heliport, the Twin says they are too busy to deal with that right now. When wouldn't they be too busy to make it possible for someone to compete with Twin Trina?

Posted: Friday, March 8, 2013
Article comment by: Phantom Nose

Let's see: checks were made out to Twin Sandy but she didn't really have an interest in the deal. I have a bridge I'd be willing to sell to anyone who believes that. Did she also forget to put this on her financial disclosure statement? How long did this deal go on? Who was collecting the rent when Twin Sandy was on the Board before?

Follow the money!

Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Article comment by: Midwest Mafia

Dear Aj Next time I ask your dear Mother how are you doing, and she tells me you still have not got a job yet but your trying hard on the computer. I'll be happy to come by and give you a ride so you can find one.

Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Article comment by: Correctional Officer

Sandy you and the Doc look good together. I have some nice coveralls for the both of you. See ya soon.

Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Article comment by: January, February, March...

April, May, June. Yeah! THEN we can re-call the twins and preacher puppet! Get those petitions ready! I can hardly wait!

Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Article comment by: Mark Mywords

There’s a 300 lb gorilla in the room, but the FPPC is too far away to smell it. Suppose you had a theoretical hospital where there was a doctor with a lot of influence. Said doctor was intensively involved for years in lobbying on behalf of a certain transport company. Not just promoting its services, but pulling strings behind the scenes, intimidating, threatening, and putting a lot of effort into making sure that a certain transport company gets the best transfers, even going so far as using his position on the MEC of this theoretical hospital, to punish other doctors for not going along with this agenda. Now suppose it came to light that this theoretical doctor has a propensity for making profitable deals under the table, and for gaining financial benefit in areas where you wouldn’t expect such a doctor to be involved. Hmm. Wouldn’t you naturally wonder if that doctor has some financial interest in that theoretical transport company? Why all that maneuvering, manipulation, and effort? I dunno. I smell gorilla, and I think there is a big one under the bed.

Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Article comment by: someone who knows

@ Aj McKay.I belive your correct on the helipad issue not having any resistance. I know Mr. Evans has been in contact with Caltrans and also having meetings with various EMS companies.

Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Article comment by: Nice try AJ McKay

The Conflict of Interest is not that easily set aside. There is still past conduct that is being investigated and even with Dr. Sahlolbei moving out it will be at least one year before Hudson can vote on his concerns. I would bet even longer....

If it was not for the PVVT reporting I would have laid odds that the heliport issue would not have been taken care of.

You think?

Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Article comment by: AJ McKay

Another issue that got headlines that can easily be resolved. Does PVVT realize that issues they bring up have some type of resolution down later on? Like the "helipad" issue? It's looking like it the helipad will get done with no resistance which throws out the "monopoly" theory by Desert Air. Maybe PVVT should write an article that cannot be disproved to any degree. The conflict of interest issue with Desert Air was never really one. The same amount of helicopter landings hasn't changed much over the years (some years more and some less) before Pinon, Carney, Hudson, Burton, or Sartin were on any board. Let's not forget patients used to get that long drive by ambulance for critical care. I would be interested in seeing how many times per year on average helicopters were used for the last 20 years or so at PVH. If PVVT would actually publish the info but don't think it's gonna happen. lol

Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Article comment by: @ to many stories

That means we now have 4 board members left to vote on issues concerning Dr. Sahlolbei! Was FPPC given all the facts on Trina Sartin?

Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Article comment by: to many stories

should change the paper name to palo verde hospital times

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