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Tri-City ready to move forward following litigation

OCEANSIDE — It took two years, but litigations against Tri-City Healthcare District for barring director Randy Horton from closed-session meetings has reached an amicable conclusion.

Matt Soskins, Tri-City Healthcare District vice president of legal affairs, said district policies have not changed.

Conflict of interest and misconduct can still bar board members from closed-session meetings.

What has changed is an improved working relationship between the board and management.

“Where we are now regarding transparency and quality — including board setting — wasn’t present to the extent it is now,” Soskins said.

David Bennett, Tri-City Healthcare District chief marketing officer, said senior leadership is now totally transparent with the board, and that has set a positive tone.

“The culture and satisfaction with employees is soaring,” Bennett said. “We’re seeing changes for the better.”

Carlsbad resident and attorney Leon Page can take part of the credit for that change.

Page filed a lawsuit against the healthcare district in December 2011.

Page said his motive for filing was to stop the district from keeping whistle blowers out of meetings.

He said important decisions are made during closed session, and not allowing Horton to attend was also denying his constituents the opportunity to participate.

“I am concerned with government, public interest, and seeing local agencies function properly,” Page said.

“The minority can easily be silenced by a vote of the majority,” he added. “Dissidents are the canaries in the coal mine. They are the first to bring to light misconduct and corruption.

“If they are excluded from closed-session meetings, who’s gong to raise the flag if there’s a problem?”

Page had some strong words to describe the past leadership under former CEO Larry Anderson. He said the board lost sight of checks and balances.

“What the board was doing under Larry Anderson was enabling everything Tri-City wanted,” Page said.

“The board forgot its role.

“It sets a very dangerous precedent. Voters are essentially without a voice.”

In September 2012, the San Diego Superior Court ruled in favor of allowing Horton to attend closed-session meetings.

The healthcare district appealed the decision.

In May 2013, Horton resigned, and the district dismissed its appeal.

Soskins said Horton simply sent an email that said, “I resign.”

In the meantime, voters elected several new directors who made changes in the district’s management.

Page said he is pleased with the district taking a more responsible approach to management.

“The board of directors is a very different board,” Page said.

“Larry Anderson is terminated, there is a revision of board members, it’s a different place today.”

Soskins and Bennett also said they are pleased with the changes.

“The quality at Tri-City is truly soaring,” Soskins said.

He added financials and patient and employee satisfaction are up under the leadership of interim CEO Casey Fatch.

Tri-City Healthcare District is in the final stages of selecting a new CEO.

Fatch is on the short list of candidates being considered for the position. If not selected, he will resume his previous position as COO.