Assembly Member Seeks Audit of Salinas Hospital District Over CEO Pay
Assembly member Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) has called for an audit of Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare District after the district gave itsÂ outgoing CEO nearly $4 million in retirement payments in addition to a $150,000 annual pension, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Last week, the Times reported that SVMH's board had approved a series of supplemental retirement payments for Samuel Downing, who retired as CEO of SVMH last week.
Downing earned $790,000 in total wages in 2009, making him one of the highest-paid public workers in California, according to data from the state controller's office (Allen, Los Angeles Times, 5/2).
Details of the Requested Audit
In a letter to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, Alejo asked the California State Auditor to investigate several concerns, including:
- Why State Controller John Chiang (D) has flagged SVMH for filing noncompliant salary and compensation reports;
- If SVMH's charitable donations to organizations with direct ties to board members are appropriate; and
- Whether fiscal mismanagement at SVMH has negatively affected patient care (Mitchell, Salinas Californian, 5/3).
Hospital District Response
Hospital district officials have dismissed Alejo's claims as part of a campaign led by the National Union of Healthcare Workers. The union currently is sparring with district officials over possible layoffs and pay concessions (Johnson, Monterey County Herald, 5/3).
SVMH officials defended Downing's compensation package and said they determined his retirement benefits based on an independent consultant's analysis.
Adrienne Laurent, spokesperson forÂ SVMH, said the hospital "behaved appropriately, legally and ethically" in determining Downing's pay and retirement benefitsÂ (Los Angeles Times, 5/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.