El Camino Hospital Board Declines To Disclose Compensation of Top Executives
The board of El Camino Hospital in Mountain View has declined to disclose the salaries of its CEO and other top executives to the San Jose Mercury News, saying that revealing such information would be an invasion of the employees' privacy, the Mercury News reports. El Camino attorneys and other officials claim that while the hospital is publicly owned, it is not a public agency and therefore exempt from disclosing compensation information to the public.
El Camino officials say that the hospital is a not-for-profit organization, rather than a public agency, and as such is not legally required to release compensation information for its employees.
According to the Mercury News, El Camino CEO Lee Domanico's salary first became an issue last year after 19 anesthesiologists were escorted from the hospital by security guards for refusing to join certain insurance networks. Several doctors demanded that Domanico's salary be revealed "after some doctors raised questions about what they saw as rapidly rising patient costs," the Mercury News reports.
El Camino and Domanico declined to reveal his salary, and later denied an official request by the Mercury News for a copy of Domanico's contract.
Four hospitals in California that are either publicly owned or receive some public funding revealed the salaries of their top executives at the request of the Mercury News and said such information should be public.
El Camino board member Wes Alles said the board decided after Domanico was hired to disclose only the "parameters" of the salaries of its top executives. In Domanico's case, compensation is revealed as being in the "75th percentile" of salaries of top executives at "comparable" facilities. However, Alles declined to say which institutions were used in the comparison or what was considered comparable because a consultant made the determination, the Mercury News reports.
"We just feel like it's not required to divulge the salary and it's not appropriate for any of the executive staff to divulge their specific salaries. Why is that upsetting?" Alles said, adding that he believes the questions over Domanico's salary stem from personality conflicts between the CEO and some El Camino staff members.
The Mercury News reports that El Camino's "stand appears inconsistent when other disclosure requirements are considered." For example, El Camino no longer files IRS 990 forms for not-for-profit organizations, forms hospital officials say they are exempt from filing, according to the Mercury News.
In addition, the Mercury News reports that Domanico in April 2004 filed a statement disclosing investments, consulting fees and other economic interests that state law requires public officials to file.
El Camino spokesperson Judy Twitchell said the report was filed voluntarily and Domanico was not required to submit the information.
Washington Hospital Board President Michael Wallace said, "The public's entitled to know. If you can't stand to see your name in lights with your compensation next to it, then you probably don't belong in that arena."
Mercury News attorney James Chadwick said, "We are clearly entitled to the records under the law, and so they are breaking the law. The laws are designed to ensure that public hospitals are publicly accountable. Part of that is making sure it's not wasting money, that the money's going where it should go."
Terry Francke -- general counsel for California Aware, an advocacy group that supports open government -- said that under California's Brown Act and Public Records Act, any contract for a top executive hired by a publicly elected board is a public document. He added, "In order for voters and taxpayers to assure themselves that their elected officials are doing their job properly, they need to be able to see records of how much and how well public money is being spent. Not to be able to get that information is to be disabled from judging one of the most important decisions a public body can make" (Koury, San Jose Mercury News, 2/20).