After completing an investigation into one of its own board members over allegations of disrespectful conduct toward hospital staff at a recent board meeting, the El Camino Healthcare District Board’s ad hoc committee didn’t submit a written report or recommend any action against the board member, Julia Miller, during a special meeting Thursday (Sept. 10).
Instead, to resolve the matter, Miller resigned from her liaison role with the district’s Community Benefit Advisory Council. A memo of understanding signed by both Miller and board chairman Gary Kalbach includes a sentence indicating that Miller “objects to the investigation and denies any wrongdoing.”
The incident in question purportedly occurred during the healthcare district’s June 16 board meeting during a discussion over distribution of money and the Community Benefit Advisory Council. Miller had voiced concerns over funding for RoadRunners – a transportation service that gives rides to the hospital for patients who need assistance– due to a decrease in ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A verbal complaint was filed to Kalbach, who formed the ad hoc committee during a special meeting on July 15. Kalbach, George Ting and an outside counsel interviewed five staff members who were present during the incident, and the members “felt strongly that the complaint was valid,” Kalbach said in an interview with the Town Crier.
Kalbach did not reveal the identity of the complainant, nor did he divulge the specific nature of what caused the complaint. He added that Miller’s resignation from the liaison role indicated that she listened and understood.
“Being a liaison to that committee was important to her,” Kalbach said. “It was valuable to us. But because of the significance of (her resignation), that should answer the question. It obviously recognized her recognition of the problem.”
Kalbach said during the meeting that he hasn’t thought of who will fill the vacant liaison role.
Miller told the Town Crier in July – when the investigation was launched – that she thought it was a witch hunt and politically motivated, as she is running for re-election this year. Kalbach denied any political intentions, stating that neither he nor the other member of the ad hoc committee, Ting, are on the ballot in November. Kalbach, whose term expires in November, did not file for re-election. Ting has two more years in his term.
“I sensed that tremor going through the room,” Ting said of the incident in question. “It didn’t strike me as being an egregious problem, but I certainly recognized there was concern.”
In an interview after the meeting, Miller said that she was glad that the investigation was complete, insisting that she received no information about the complaint.
"I know the voters are smart enough not to take one meeting and undo my eight years of good work," Miller said. "Our voters are educated and fair. They will evaluate me on my total years and contributions in my public service."
At least one other board member, Peter Fung, was dissatisfied with the non-result. Fung had been the lone member who dissented during the vote forming the ad hoc committee in July, questioning the necessity of the investigation.
“What the heck is going on?” Fung said. “We’ve spent important time during this very unusual time for this meeting. And I would not mind spending time out of my patients’ care if this is very important. Indeed, if it is of such importance, how come we don’t have some answers for a board member himself? And for the community at large?”
Kalbach defended the investigation, claiming that he would have been negligent as the chairman for not pursuing it. He said the board should aim to be more transparent and accountable to improve upon its perceived public reputation.
“I have no qualms about how this proceeded,” Kalbach said. “I sleep at night very well believing that we executed on the policy perfectly.”