Health Care District violates Brown Act
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 8:23 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 8:23 a.m.
Petaluma Health Care District officials admitted recently that they violated the state's open meetings law by engaging in a closed session discussion regarding the district's strategic plan at a Sept. 26 board of directors meeting and said they would take steps to avoid doing so in the future.
The monthly meeting's closed session portion included a properly disclosed one-year review for district CEO Ramona Faith which lasted approximately one hour and an approximately three-hour session which was listed on the agenda as a “trade secrets” discussion.
When asked what was discussed during the surprisingly long closed session, Health Care District Board Liaison Suzanne Cochrane said that the discussion had been primarily an update on the district's strategic plan.
Faith confirmed that the district did in fact close portions of its meeting that should have been open to the public, but said that it had been an unintentional error and that the district had no intention of keeping anything from the public.
“Past practice has been to use the full ‘trade secret' wording whenever we had a closed session for new district programs and services, which is part of the strategic plan” said Faith. She said that in the future, the district will identify specific topics that will be addressed in closed sessions and will manage the discussions accordingly.
“The intent was never to be non-transparent,” she added.
To rectify the issue, the district will distribute the minutes of the meeting that should have been open to the public at its October board meeting.
As a show of good faith, the district provided the Argus-Courier with copies of the minutes from the portion of the September meeting that should have been open to the public. Included in the minutes were an overview of the district's strategic plan, including fiscal sustainability, infrastructure development, and collaborations and partnerships.
The Health Care District leases the Petaluma Valley Hospital facility to St. Joseph's Health System, which runs the hospital and contracts staff.
The district's lease with St. Joseph's will be expiring in approximately four years, and should the district decide to put out request for proposals from new contractors, it would begin to do so in approximately two years.
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