When it comes to direction as far as conflict of interest goes as far as who can be a candidate the Sierra View Medical Center Board of Directors found out this: there's basically no direction.
That was the report given by Sierra View legal counsel Alex Krase at the board's meeting held on January 26. At the meeting the board began a discussion on possibly changing its bylaws as far as who can run for the board when it comes to conflict of interest.
The issue came up during last year's November general election when a husband and wife, Dr. Gaurang Pandya and his wife, Ela Pandya ran for the board. Because the Sierra View board is selected by districts, the Pandyas were able to run in different districts.
Ela Pandya ran in district 1 while Dr. Pandya ran for reelection in district 2. Dr. Bindusugar Reddy challenged Pandya in district 1 when incumbent Daniel Smith decided not to run for reelection. Reddy stated one of the main reasons why he ran was because he though it was inappropriate for a husband and wife to serve on the board. Reddy ended up beating Pandya for the district 1 seat on the board while Dr. Pandya won reelection.
When it comes to who can run for the board, Krase said all the Health and Safety Code says is a candidate must have a residence in the district for 30 days in able to run.
The board is looking at three issues of possible conflict of interest: Members of the same family serving on the board; members of the same medical group serving on the board; and members of the same profession serving on the board.
Members of the same profession serving on the board is also an issue as there are currently three physicians serving on the board. Dr. Ashhok Behl also serves on the board.
Krase said when it comes to the same family members or members of the same profession serving on the board, there's no case that deals with those issues. Krase did refer to a situation that happened in the 1980s in which a Sierra View employee was elected to the board. The board chose not to seat the employee and to quickly pass a bylaw preventing Sierra View employees from serving on the board which caused legal issues
There's also no code barring those in the same family or those in the same profession from serving on the board at the same time, Krase added.
But he also said there's nothing stated in any code that would stop the board from changing its bylaws to prevent family members or those in the same profession from serving on the board at the same time. He did say, though, the board to deal with the issues carefully. “Anything could be challenged,” he said. “A lawsuit could be filed.”
Krase did refer to a situation that happened in the 1980s in which a Sierra View employee was elected to the board. The board chose not to seat the employee and to quickly pass a bylaw preventing Sierra View employees from serving on the board which caused legal issues, Krase said.
So Krase said the sooner the board acts on possibly changing the bylaws the better. The board does have time, but would need to take action to provide enough time for the changes to take place before the 2022 election. “If you're reactionary and you end up with litigation it could cost you a lot of money,” Krase said.
So Krase said whatever action is taken by the board should be presented to the Fair Political Practices Commission for its opinion.
And Krase did said family members serving on the board at the same time could become an issue especially if one family member is passionate about an issue.
“I think this is a real issue,” he said. “There's a conflict. Is the member going to be loyal to family or to the hospital? That needs to be addressed.”
The Board is expected to place the issue again on the agenda for its next regular board meeting on February 23. It's possible the board could take action as soon as its next meeting following the February 23 meeting.