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Palo Verde Valley Blythe/Quartzsite Times | Blythe, California and Quartzsite, Arizona

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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: Sunday, April 13, 2014
Article comment by: @ bout time

When the conclusion does happen, hopefully we will then be able to get some good doctors to come to Blythe.

Posted: Saturday, April 12, 2014
Article comment by: bout time

LEAVE OUR GOOD DOC ALONE BEFORE WE HAVE EVEN LESS CARE AROUND HERE...ITS JUST A WITCH HUNT

Posted: Saturday, April 12, 2014
Article comment by: Recall Mayor Mike Evans now!

Just Me,
If I were kicked out of the handbell choir, the County Fair, CWA, and the Bluegrass I would never raise my hand in public again. You should give it up.

Those who know


Posted: Saturday, April 12, 2014
Article comment by: Concerned Citizen

Will the hearing for Hudson be attended again by Hospital Employee supporters or maybe they feel this will help with job security?

Posted: Saturday, April 12, 2014
Article comment by: Suit to be dismissed, no evidence

Excited to hear that the OIG is finally looking into the major debt that Jim Hottoias and crew left PVC in, which is MILLIONS. What a crime to leave this community in such debt and walk into the sunset with inflated retirements. How do they sleep at night? Looking forward to Sandy Hudson and Dr. Sahlolbei being dismissed from these charges very soon. They are BS and we all know it.

Posted: Saturday, April 12, 2014
Article comment by: From Afar

These two make another appearance in criminal court this week:
People vs Sahlolbei 4/14/2014 Monday
People vs Hudson 4/15/2014 Tuesday


Posted: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Article comment by: @ AJ from one who knows

The worst that can happen is that 1/2 the population is actually ignorant of the facts and I mean the history of facts (15+ years) and vote in a board who is corrupt. THAT IS what is happening - we all know you are part of the ignorant 1/2. U say at times the public is worse than the issues - the fact is - the public is more informed on the issues than you and we are angry that the ignorant have voted in the corruption - which will take us ALL DOWN!! What is soooo hard to understand?? If it weren't for PVVT - nobody would be informed - got it??? Yes there are other things we need to get to - but listen to this - we have been trying to be done with DR S FOR YEARS, WE WERE ALMOST DONE WITH HIM AND HIS ANTICS FINALLY - but the ignorant folks like u have done this community a disservice. The FPPC have said that there is a conflict - just what we've been saying - now will u understand that these 3 board members are not good for our hospital nor Blythe?

Posted: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Article comment by: @ just me

Just to let you know there is a hospital board meeting tomorrow night at 5pm at city hall. Posted it on here once but figured I would make sure you got it.

Posted: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Article comment by: just me

These two have so much in common they look alike..You know what Im saying, lmao..

Posted: Sunday, March 10, 2013
Article comment by: @AJ McKay

Try to imagine how difficult it has been to get this far on the hospital. This is not the LA Times. It's like anything else one day, one issue at a time. I am sure PVVT is aware of other situations that need cleaning up. The tide, believe, is beginning to turn on the hospital, and then there will be time for another project. Intimidation works, and when people are afraid for their jobs, livelihood, their property, people are afraid to share what they know. If they hear the same lies over and over again, and if they are hear nothing else, they tend to wind up believing it. The violent reactions of board members and the vitriolic tantrums against the source of the exposure, the PVVT, would seem to indicate their concern.

Posted: Saturday, March 9, 2013
Article comment by: Phantom Nose

I heard Gofer quit the college board when they stopped paying him $20,000 a year for health insurance. That's a pretty good hourly rate.

Posted: Saturday, March 9, 2013
Article comment by: AJ McKay

@Just A Matter Of Time I understand what you are trying to say. But on the other side no board in the past has done much in their first two months on the job. Probably not even much done in 6 months. Opinions will vary about the people who are elected. There's absolutely nothing wrong with opinion, but look at how the public (supports of PVVT or PVH Board) reacts to statements of others. You mention people need to grow up, but will they? At times the public is worse than the issues. Whatever the problems are they will resolve themselves in a way seen fit when or if the time comes. Even then there will remain unhappy individuals. The employees of PVH regardless of the Board, will still do their job the best they can day to day. The fact is although PVH is an important part of the community, it's also a very small issue compared to other issues Blythe has as a whole. It would be nice to see PVVT put as much time and effort in help resolving those issues also. May get some good feedback or support also. If we need to open our eyes our eyes can see more than just PVH. I hope . . . .

Posted: Saturday, March 9, 2013
Article comment by: Just A Matter of Time Local Resident

Thank you for the information you are providing to the general public. It is sad to see that money and greed have so much influence over the people who were elected to concentrate on the healthcare needs of the community. Grow up ladies and gentlemen! You're all acting like a bunch of spoiled little brats. It's time to focus on the needs of the community, instead of yourselves. You are no better than anyone else! Winning an election means nothing, if you don't do the job you were elected to do. You won't be holding your head high, if you're recalled and/or criminally prosecuted. How about all that dirty laundry that will be aired???? It's just a matter of time. Think about it!

Posted: Friday, March 8, 2013
Article comment by: Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Such great news! All these people now waking up and getting into the fray. Nice to read something written by somebody who doesn't have (deleted) for brains. Please keep it up! Otherwise, it looks like Doc's troops are too massive to overcome. A crack has been opened, and it is getting wider and wider. Join with the great efforts of PVVT to finally clean up this town. What a great feelin to see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Posted: Friday, March 8, 2013
Article comment by: Former Resident

I applaud the PV Times for reporting the facts about the hospital "trio" , it's sad to see the three puppets and Dr. S ruin a nice hospital.
Conflict of interest is so obvious, including the halting of the helicopter service, guess Trinia and Jeff are worried they might lose money.
Again way to go PV Time for your coverage of this mess. Recall Recall



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