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El Camino Healthcare District launches misconduct investigation into one of its own board members

An El Camino Healthcare District board member is under investigation for misconduct. Photo by Michelle Le

El Camino Healthcare District's board of directors voted 3-1 this month to launch an investigation into a complaint that board member Julia Miller had been unprofessional and disrespectful to hospital staff.

But the details of the complaint have been kept hidden from the public and board members alike, raising questions about political motivations behind the investigation. Miller is up for re-election this year and plans to run in a contested race for the board this November.

Miller, meanwhile, said she was elbowed out of the July 15 discussion to launch an investigative committee, and said she doesn't know any more than the general public about the allegations.

Board chair Gary Kalbach proposed the idea of investigating Miller after receiving one or more complaints from hospital staff, alluding specifically to disrespectful behavior at a board meeting in June. Who made the complaint, and the specific details of the complaint, had not been revealed even to other board members at the July 15 meeting.

When asked for a copy of the complaint, a hospital spokesman said that Kalbach received a "verbal" complaint with no paper trail.

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Kalbach said he believes Miller has a history of misconduct on the board, with the June meeting being only the latest example of her inappropriate behavior towards staff. He said he was encouraged to sweep the problem under the rug, but said the board must hold Miller accountable.

"If we cannot examine or independent or collective actions, we don't belong on this board," Kalbach said.

Board member John Zoglin, who supported the investigation, said the board needs to hold its own members accountable and prevent any abuse of power over its employees. Like Kalbach, he suggested that the problem was a repeat offense and that apologies don't absolve her of the misconduct.

"A pattern of mistreating employees and apologizing -- that's, I think, analogous to other kinds of abuse," Zoglin said. "It doesn't really provide any safety for the people on the receiving end of that."

Board member Peter Fung, who questioned why the topic was even being discussed, said he was "very uncomfortable" voting for an investigation based on a complaint nobody has even seen. Time and effort will need to be rerouted into an investigation at a time when the hospital is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home public health orders, he said, and it smacks of political interference.

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Adding to the strange nature of the July 15 discussion, the investigation was formally opposed by one of Santa Clara County's largest union leaders. Ben Field, then the executive officer of the South Bay Labor Council, told board members in a letter that the misconduct allegations "appear to be the result of a longstanding grudge," timed to cause political damage to Miller's re-election campaign.

Julia Miller

"The nature and timing of the complaint reflects badly on the hospital and its governance, suggesting that the district board is willing to use its powers to serve a political agenda," Field said in the letter. "The ad hoc committee seems designed to create an election issue. This strategy is not only an unethical intrusion into electoral politics, but it is likely to backfire on the hospital by spotlighting the dysfunction of your board."

It's unclear what transpired at the June 16 board meeting that triggered the investigation into Miller's actions. The meeting focused largely on the district's community benefit grants, which allocates millions of taxpayer dollars to nonprofits and schools running health care programs and services.

During the meeting, Miller pushed back against some staff recommendations, insisting that it would be a good investment to give $25,000 to the Sunnyvale Police and Fire Foundation for mental health support and financial assistance. Staff had recommended the program not be funded.

Miller also questioned increasing funding to the RoadRunners program, which provides free hospital transportation to patients incapable of driving to and from the hospital. She worried that current ridership numbers may not warrant the increased costs.

Board member George Ting supported the investigation, but said the interactions at the June 16 meeting didn't strike him as a serious offense.

"I didn't perceive the insult as others did," Ting said. "It wasn't as obvious to me."

When asked about the investigation, Miller said she believes the allegations and newly launched committee are related to her bid for re-election, and that the process -- voting to investigate without seeing the complaint and forcing her to recuse herself from the discussion -- was both outside of protocol and outside of authority. She said Kalbach has declined to meet with her and talk about the complaint.

"He won't meet with me or talk to me about what happened," Miller said.

On a 3-1 vote with Fung dissenting, the board agreed to launch an ad hoc committee to dig into the complaint and make a determination. The investigation is being conducted by two board members in meetings that are not public, and the verdict will be presented within 45 to 60 days of the start of the investigation, likely around the time ballots will be mailed to voters.

There isn't too much the board can do to reprimand Miller in the event that the majority finds she acted inappropriately. The board can choose to censure a colleague as a sort of official condemnation, but cannot oust them from the board or compel any corrective actions.

Notable examples include the Mountain View Whisman School District board vote to censure trustee Steve Nelson in 2013 and, more recently, a split vote by the Santa Clara County school board to censure Joseph Di Salvo this month over allegations of gender bias and discrimination.

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El Camino Healthcare District launches misconduct investigation into one of its own board members

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Wed, Jul 29, 2020, 1:08 pm

El Camino Healthcare District's board of directors voted 3-1 this month to launch an investigation into a complaint that board member Julia Miller had been unprofessional and disrespectful to hospital staff.

But the details of the complaint have been kept hidden from the public and board members alike, raising questions about political motivations behind the investigation. Miller is up for re-election this year and plans to run in a contested race for the board this November.

Miller, meanwhile, said she was elbowed out of the July 15 discussion to launch an investigative committee, and said she doesn't know any more than the general public about the allegations.

Board chair Gary Kalbach proposed the idea of investigating Miller after receiving one or more complaints from hospital staff, alluding specifically to disrespectful behavior at a board meeting in June. Who made the complaint, and the specific details of the complaint, had not been revealed even to other board members at the July 15 meeting.

When asked for a copy of the complaint, a hospital spokesman said that Kalbach received a "verbal" complaint with no paper trail.

Kalbach said he believes Miller has a history of misconduct on the board, with the June meeting being only the latest example of her inappropriate behavior towards staff. He said he was encouraged to sweep the problem under the rug, but said the board must hold Miller accountable.

"If we cannot examine or independent or collective actions, we don't belong on this board," Kalbach said.

Board member John Zoglin, who supported the investigation, said the board needs to hold its own members accountable and prevent any abuse of power over its employees. Like Kalbach, he suggested that the problem was a repeat offense and that apologies don't absolve her of the misconduct.

"A pattern of mistreating employees and apologizing -- that's, I think, analogous to other kinds of abuse," Zoglin said. "It doesn't really provide any safety for the people on the receiving end of that."

Board member Peter Fung, who questioned why the topic was even being discussed, said he was "very uncomfortable" voting for an investigation based on a complaint nobody has even seen. Time and effort will need to be rerouted into an investigation at a time when the hospital is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home public health orders, he said, and it smacks of political interference.

Adding to the strange nature of the July 15 discussion, the investigation was formally opposed by one of Santa Clara County's largest union leaders. Ben Field, then the executive officer of the South Bay Labor Council, told board members in a letter that the misconduct allegations "appear to be the result of a longstanding grudge," timed to cause political damage to Miller's re-election campaign.

"The nature and timing of the complaint reflects badly on the hospital and its governance, suggesting that the district board is willing to use its powers to serve a political agenda," Field said in the letter. "The ad hoc committee seems designed to create an election issue. This strategy is not only an unethical intrusion into electoral politics, but it is likely to backfire on the hospital by spotlighting the dysfunction of your board."

It's unclear what transpired at the June 16 board meeting that triggered the investigation into Miller's actions. The meeting focused largely on the district's community benefit grants, which allocates millions of taxpayer dollars to nonprofits and schools running health care programs and services.

During the meeting, Miller pushed back against some staff recommendations, insisting that it would be a good investment to give $25,000 to the Sunnyvale Police and Fire Foundation for mental health support and financial assistance. Staff had recommended the program not be funded.

Miller also questioned increasing funding to the RoadRunners program, which provides free hospital transportation to patients incapable of driving to and from the hospital. She worried that current ridership numbers may not warrant the increased costs.

Board member George Ting supported the investigation, but said the interactions at the June 16 meeting didn't strike him as a serious offense.

"I didn't perceive the insult as others did," Ting said. "It wasn't as obvious to me."

When asked about the investigation, Miller said she believes the allegations and newly launched committee are related to her bid for re-election, and that the process -- voting to investigate without seeing the complaint and forcing her to recuse herself from the discussion -- was both outside of protocol and outside of authority. She said Kalbach has declined to meet with her and talk about the complaint.

"He won't meet with me or talk to me about what happened," Miller said.

On a 3-1 vote with Fung dissenting, the board agreed to launch an ad hoc committee to dig into the complaint and make a determination. The investigation is being conducted by two board members in meetings that are not public, and the verdict will be presented within 45 to 60 days of the start of the investigation, likely around the time ballots will be mailed to voters.

There isn't too much the board can do to reprimand Miller in the event that the majority finds she acted inappropriately. The board can choose to censure a colleague as a sort of official condemnation, but cannot oust them from the board or compel any corrective actions.

Notable examples include the Mountain View Whisman School District board vote to censure trustee Steve Nelson in 2013 and, more recently, a split vote by the Santa Clara County school board to censure Joseph Di Salvo this month over allegations of gender bias and discrimination.

Comments

Due process for all
another community
on Jul 29, 2020 at 2:59 pm
Due process for all, another community
on Jul 29, 2020 at 2:59 pm
14 people like this

Our community and Julia Miller deserve more transparency on the nature of the complaint. I am pretty sure that the three board members voting to begin an investigation that is timed to report results at election time, based on some anonymous, vague, oral complaint would howl if this were done to them. As with all board members, Julia Miller is entitled to one of the basic requirements of due process: to understand the complaint against her and know who is making it. Very poor form for the board chair Gary Kalbach to move forward with a process in which our community will not be able to have confidence, owing to the lack of due process and obvious political motivations.


Member
another community
on Jul 29, 2020 at 3:46 pm
Member, another community
on Jul 29, 2020 at 3:46 pm
7 people like this

Does anybody know whether The two board members who are investigating her and possibly thwarting her re-election bid are themselves running for re-election? If so, that’s...fishy...that’s seems like an abuse of power


Robyn
another community
on Jul 29, 2020 at 4:42 pm
Robyn, another community
on Jul 29, 2020 at 4:42 pm
4 people like this

This is not surprising. She was the same while in Sunnyvale. She exhibits all the characteristics of self -important synchophant to developers. She even refused to serve on a short jury trial in Sunnyvale.
Harassing staff can lead to expensive lawsuits for the district and taxpayers.


Republicans have got to go
Shoreline West
on Jul 29, 2020 at 6:27 pm
Republicans have got to go, Shoreline West
on Jul 29, 2020 at 6:27 pm
7 people like this

I'm concerned that the only Democrat and woman on a 5 seat board is being targeted without due process by her Republican male colleagues who have a history of neglecting the rights of healthcare workers, while she has been the one championing them.

It's time to vote these men out. Enough of this conservative nonsense at a time when we need people to collaborate, talk to each other and be focused on fighting for and supporting our healthcare workers. There are better uses of their time than a hit job during an election season.

Voters be aware, while it is a "nonpartisan" office, this very republican and male board is not so unpartisan. This November, it's time for a change.


Hospital Stolen
Monta Loma
on Jul 29, 2020 at 7:29 pm
Hospital Stolen, Monta Loma
on Jul 29, 2020 at 7:29 pm
5 people like this

As I recall, years ago doctors got together and got the elected hospital board to transfer the hospital to a corporation they had formed. The elected hospital board now does little more that hand out a few million dollars each year to health care-related non-profits. Elected board members who the corporate staff and existing corporate board likes are added to the corporate board.


ECH Employee
Old Mountain View
on Jul 31, 2020 at 10:11 am
ECH Employee, Old Mountain View
on Jul 31, 2020 at 10:11 am
3 people like this

None of this is remotely surprising. While El Camino has been quick to tout their shiny new facilities to the public they have been treating employees poorly the past 2 years. I've been there for over a decade and have been shocked by the actions from leadership and complete disrespect they have towards employees. It's really not surprising to hear of this complaint as it appears to reflect the culture of ECH leadership from the top down.


Healthcare Workers Oranizer
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2020 at 11:29 am
Healthcare Workers Oranizer, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2020 at 11:29 am
2 people like this

Gary Kalbach, John Zoglin, and Julia Miller are up for re-election. Kalbach will not seek re-election, he has been recruiting candidates to run for El Camino Hospital at least three have shown interest.

Kalbach is the Board Member who proposed the idea of investigating Miller after receiving one or more complaints from hospital staff, alluding specifically to disrespectful behavior at a board meeting in June. Who made the complaint, and the specific details of the complaint, had not been revealed even to other board members at the July 15 meeting.

When asked for a copy of the complaint, a hospital spokesman said that Kalbach received a "verbal" complaint with no paper trail.

The timing of the July 15th board meeting was two days after filing opened, coincidence I say not, this reeks of political mud slinging to discredit the only elected registered Democrat female on the board.


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