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Measure M on the chopping block?: Defendant in hospital’s legal challenge says initiative des


Photo By: Town Crier File Photo
Photo Town Crier File Photo

El Camino Hospital employee Kary Lynch, right, remains unable to secure legal representation after being named a defendant in the legal case against Measure M’s validity.

A voter-approved initiative that caps executive pay at El Camino Hospital may meet its end before ever taking effect.

Kary Lynch, a 34-year El Camino Hospital psychiatric technician, told the Town Crier that he’s been unable to secure pro bono representation after the hospital named him and Laura Huston – also a hospital employee – as defendants in a lawsuit challenging Measure M’s legality. Lynch and Huston co-sponsored the initiative.

Hospital district voters approved the measure – which limits hospital executive pay to no more than double the annual salary of the California governor – by 51.55 percent in November.

Lynch, served with the lawsuit Dec. 26, said his attempts to access legal help from his union – the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) – among others, have been unsuccessful.

Without the means to mount a defense, Lynch said, the courts will likely invalidate the measure. He noted that the 30-day window to respond to the lawsuit has since elapsed.

“To stand by helplessly and watch the voters’ will go by the wayside is frustrating,” Lynch said. “I believe (the measure) is dead. … My expectation is that a judge will throw it out without ruling on its legality.”

Emails to hospital and SEIU-UHW officials seeking comment were not returned by the Town Crier’s press deadline. A Jan. 24 statement on the hospital’s website, however, noted that it named Lynch and Huston as defendants in the lawsuit because they served as official co-sponsors of the initiative, and not because of a personal vendetta.

“The hospital believes the ballot initiative is unconstitutional,” the statement noted. “The only way to challenge its validity in court is to sue the official sponsors of the initiative. The hospital cannot sue SEIU, as it is not an official sponsor of the measure.”

Lynch said that while he has received some offers of help, none has come close to meeting his legal and financial needs.

“I talked to several (attorneys). … Some offered to assist in my defense, but I needed more than that,” he said. “The (SEIU-UHW) said accurately that they’re not the ones being sued. And because they’re not being sued, they can’t provide representation.”

In the weeks leading up to Election Day, opponents of the measure argued that the hospital’s compensation practices were fair, noting its philosophy of paying employees at the 50th percentile of similar hospitals and health-care systems nationwide.

Those supporting the measure, Lynch recalled, pointed to hospital CEO Tomi Ryba – who reportedly earns more than $600,000 annually in base pay – as proof that the hospital’s salary structure was too generous. Lynch said he believes the measure resonated with area voters, noting that it passed with little to no campaigning by supporters.

“There really was no effort on anyone’s part to campaign on behalf of Measure M,” he said. “It basically passed on its own merit.”

When asked what he plans to do next, Lynch said he wants to move on from the matter – at least for now.

“I’m basically trying to let go of it,” he said. “But in two years, there will be more board members up for re-election and I’ll bring this up again. I will remind people about this.”

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