Monday, August 7, 2017

[Tulare County] Where’s Wardo?

Blog note: this article references a grand jury report.
The Valley Voice has been keenly covering the doings at Tulare Regional Medical Center (TRMC) because the hospital is a public–therefore governmental–entity. When board members are sworn in, for instance, they take an oath to preserve and defend both the national and state constitutions.
We reported on the seismic realignment with a new medical executive committee, and all the wrangling–including a trial–that has entailed. We took note of the $800k “line of credit” the hospital board sought from Bank of the Sierra, ostensibly to leverage vendor discounts, but in reality to pay off a long-standing debt to Cardinal Pharmaceutical. We caught the change in language between the board’s pitching Measure I to the Public and its application to the elections office, and we covered the ensuing $55 million bond campaign in its sordid entirety. We were on hand when the Grand Jury released its “Tower of Shame” report, and we recently reported that some hospital employees’ paychecks were bouncing.
Most recently we were present at Senovia Gutierrez’ swearing-in ceremony after she was overwhelmingly elected to the Tulare Local Health Care District board, TRMC’s governing body. We covered the aborted next regular meeting, where she was denied her rightful seat, somehow–and in the absence of a quorum–by the old majority, and the special board meeting held the next day.
More has happened than I could possibly remember–which is partly why Tony created an “in-depth” feature on our website. Go there if you need a refresh.
Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward has been conspicuous in his absence. He’d probably say no crimes have been committed.
What Chief Deputy District Attorney Daniel Underwood actually said, when the Voice called Ward’s office to ask about the legality of the hospital board’s old majority forestalling a certified election, was, “Law enforcement agencies refer cases to us such as the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department or the Visalia Police Department. Then the DA handles the prosecution. Rarely does a District Attorney do investigations. Someone else needs to make the accusations. But we have no referral concerning TRMC right now. We are in charge of prosecuting crimes after an investigation. Almost every crime the DA’s office prosecutes comes to us from a law enforcement agency.”
If this were an article I’d be sure to speak with Ward personally. But it’s not. This is an opinion–my opinion–and in that estimation Tim Ward has been, and remains, missing in action. Missing by inaction, more like–and therefore found wanting.
If he won’t do his job the Fourth Estate must serve as the firewall between perfidy the public interest. But the problem with this scenario is that, more often than not, the press is reactive in its posture. It reports on events that have already happened.
Headlining an internet article on 28 July, the Visalia Times-Delta published the following:–“DA to TRMC: No Brown Act violation.” I was pleasantly surprised. Until I read the article.
Nowhere did Ward say that, during Senovia Gutierrez’ swearing-in ceremony, the Brown Act was not violated. According to the article, Ward said, “No action will be taken.” But he knows there was no violation because the Brown Act makes a clear exception for ceremonies.
It should have been easy enough for him to say that. Ask yourself why he didn’t. Ask yourself whose side Tim Ward is on.
That’s another way of saying, “Follow the money.” Take a gander at who contributes the grandest sums to Ward’s campaign war chest.
And speaking of money, those bounced checks–wouldn’t they all, ultimately if not technically, be Public funds?
What I do know is that the District Attorney has police powers. That office also has subpoena powers, and is the lead agency in combating government corruption and voting fraud; moreover, it is charged with a duty to do so.
To that end, the DA in this county has under its auspices approximately 20 peace officer investigators. Its Bureau of Investigations, according to its website, is comprised of three divisions: the North and South County Criminal Investigations Divisions and the Financial Crimes Division. “The Bureau is staffed with some of the most experienced investigators in Tulare County. Members of the Bureau of Investigations are recognized throughout Tulare County for their expertise in a wide array of investigative functions ranging from homicide investigations to complex and intricate white collar criminal activity.”
Gilbert M. Cardenas and Eric Grant respectively head the North and South County Criminal Investigations Divisions. Their identical mandate is to handle “District Attorney initiated criminal investigations in northern [and southern]Tulare County involving alleged police and public official misconduct, Tulare County Grand Jury investigations, and post filing investigations for pending felony and misdemeanor cases awaiting a trial by jury.”
Furthermore, there is a White Collar Crime arm, established in 1996, dedicated to the “prosecution of economic crime.”
More from the DA’s website: “The White Collar Crime Unit has undertaken numerous cases of embezzlement, conflict of interest, political, and commercial crimes. This unit has the expertise and ability to take a case from filing through sentencing. Experienced and trained prosecutors are assigned to this unit. These cases often take weeks just to read, then the process of determining a course of action begins. The Deputy District Attorneys and the investigators assigned to these cases are specialized and dedicated to prosecuting white collar crime.”
What in the world was Underwood talking about?
This isn’t a hit piece; as I’ve indicated, it isn’t even an article. This is a call to action.
August 2, 2017
Valley Voice
By Joseph Oldenberg

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