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Palomar Health Center
Palomar Medical Center in Escondido. Photo courtesy of Palomar Health.

Tensions flare among Palomar Health board members

ESCONDIDO — Amid rising tensions among members of Palomar Health’s board of directors, an argument disrupted a board meeting last month at which no-confidence votes were scheduled to be taken against two board members.

At the Nov. 13 board meeting, a shouting match erupted between board members. Laurie Edwards-Tate, one of the board members facing a no-confidence vote, said that she was physically assaulted by fellow board member Laura Barry during the argument.

Healthcare district spokesperson Bianca Kasawdish confirmed a verbal dispute arose among board members but denied the encounter Edwards-Tate described.

According to the Voice of San Diego, a vote of no confidence in board member John Clark passed by a 5-2 vote, with Clark and Edwards-Tate opposed. The vote on Edwards-Tate’s no-confidence vote was postponed as officials failed to give her prior written notice of the vote.

For the last few months, the board and healthcare district have been at odds, with Clark and Edwards-Tate in potential violation of the district’s media policy and code of conduct.

Clark was told he violated the media policy and code of conduct after speaking to KPBS this year about Palomar Health’s new terms of use agreement on its website.

In August, Palomar Health added a pop-up window to its site that requires users to waive legal rights, including privacy and the right to participate in class-action lawsuits, and permit collecting personal identifying information before entering the website.

According to a Voice of San Diego article, experts agreed the terms likely violate the Brown Act, California Public Records Act and other state laws due to Palomar’s status as a public healthcare district.

Under the terms of use, board meeting agendas, minutes, adopted budgets, financial reports and other public records would have been included under the copyright clause, preventing anyone from republishing or distributing materials without the district’s permission.

Palomar Health has since updated the agreement to allow public records to be copied or distributed.

Clark received a no-confidence vote over the summer for a comment he gave to Voice of San Diego expressing his disappointment after the board majority voted against presenting financial reports monthly instead of quarterly.

Laurie Edwards-Tate has filed a free speech lawsuit against Palomar Health after the hospital allegedly threatened sanctions for her comments to a San Diego media outlet. Courtesy photo
Laurie Edwards-Tate filed a free speech lawsuit against Palomar Health after the hospital allegedly threatened sanctions for her comments to a San Diego media outlet. Courtesy photo

Edwards-Tate also made comments to the Voice expressing her concerns over the new terms of use agreement. In response, the board’s attorney sent her a notice of action listing potential infractions she committed against the district’s media policies for commenting without getting permission first.

Edwards-Tate was originally up for a no-confidence vote in October, but the board decided to investigate the matter first. After that first attempt, Edwards-Tate filed a free speech complaint against the healthcare district.

Tensions boiled over at last month’s meeting. Edwards-Tate told The Coast News that Barry “started yelling, ‘Shut up, shut up,’ as I was talking … then she crashed her chair into mine — she was sitting right next to me — put her face into my face, held a wooden paddle up, gritted her teeth and called me the b-word.”

Edwards-Tate said she was escorted out of the meeting for her own safety and has since attended various other board meetings virtually.

“It was a disgustingly intimidating experience, one that makes a person feel fearful and gets in the way of doing the job I was elected to do,” she said.

Kasawdish, the district spokesperson, denied Edwards-Tate’s account.

“At no point was there physical contact between Directors, nor any threats of such, and no Director needed to be escorted out,” Kasawdish said via email.

Kasawdish did say that an unidentified individual who “was believed to be Edwards-Tate’s husband” rushed the board and put hands on one director, which required Palomar’s security team to intervene. Board Chair Linda Greer then called a short recess to restore order.

Edwards-Tate denied the hospital’s allegations against her husband. She said the only board member he touched was his wife when he hugged her after standing up and demanding that Barry stop calling her names.

“My husband was not the problem,” Edwards-Tate said. “He would never touch anyone.”

Palomar does not take video or audio recordings of its meetings, Kasawdish said. But Edwards-Tate’s legal team provided a photo of a board member holding a paddle appearing to yell at someone out of the frame.

Karin Sweigart, Edwards-Tate’s attorney, said the legal team made formal complaint regarding the incident.

Edwards-Tate said she isn’t sure if she would take further legal action.

“I don’t want to ruin anyone’s personal life, but no one is going to ruin mine,” she said.

The next regular board meeting is Dec. 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the first-floor conference center at 2185 Citracado Parkway in Escondido.

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