OCEANSIDE — City Council denied Tri-City Medical Center’s request to hire three armed and uniformed police officers to stand guard at monthly board meetings, even though the medical center would foot the $6,338 bill for the additional service.
The decision came in a 4-1 vote Oct. 26, in which only Mayor Jim Wood voted in favor of the request.
The request for police officers came after numerous incidents of unruly behavior disrupted Tri-City Medical Center board meetings. Most of the incidents involved board members and were described as volatile to the point of breaking the law. On two occasions police were called in to respond.
“I feel sorry they even need this protection,” Councilman Jack Feller said. “I think they should figure something out besides calling in the sheriff.”
Two plain-clothed armed security guards are regularly on duty at the board meetings. In one incident, Director Kathleen Sterling is reported to have jumped a security guard.
The board has censured Sterling eight times on allegations of being disruptive and hostile to staff. The board had filed several lawsuits against her and sought restraining orders to keep her off hospital grounds.
Director Randy Horton has been censured once.
Despite theses incidents, many questioned the need of police officers when armed security guards are already present.
“How many security guards does it take?” Councilwoman Esther Sanchez asked.
Following the council vote, Councilman Jerry Kern said he did not feel there was a physical threat from disruptions that have come primarily from Sterling. He added the addition of police officers is unlikely to change things.
“She is not going to shape up and behave,” Kern said.
Kern also questioned whether the city would get the full cost of recovery for three officers. “It’s not a good use of resources,” Kern said.
Wood, who cast the sole vote to fulfill the request for police officers, said it is the city’s duty to honor the request. He added that having off-duty officers assigned to board meetings would keep on-duty officers from being called in and allow Tri-City Medical Center to have no wait time.