HAYWARD, Calif. – Many in the community, including a few local officials, have long questioned the credibility of the Eden Township Healthcare District’s legal counsel. Wednesday night, Board Director Dr. Vin Sawhney attempted to remove the District’s long-time lawyer, but was blocked by its newest member.
The uncommonly combative exchange occurred near the end of the nearly four hour meeting when most of the larger-than-normal crowd and other reporters had left. After returning from executive session, Sawhney abruptly called for the immediate dismissal of its lead counsel, Craig Cannizzo.
“I personally think he’s not the appropriate person to represent us,” said Sawhney. “In my judgment the opinions that have been given to us by Mr. Craig Cannizzo–our legal counsel–have not been unbiased, so I do not have confidence in him.”
Fellow member Carole Rogers agreed with Sawhney, while Dr. Harry Dvorsky and Chair Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar voiced concern in modifying the District’s legal counsel with a lawsuit by Sutter Health still pending. “This would be the wrong move at this point in time and would jeopardize all the efforts that have been put into this and send the wrong message to Sutter Health,” said Ratnesar.
The board’s newest member, the recently appointed Dr. Bill West, was thrust into controversy during his first meeting. West voted against the motion saying he did not feel he had enough information to make a decision, but not before Cannizzo voiced considerable displeasure with Sawhney’s comments and mocked the assumption his law firm would cooperate with any possible replacement counsel.
“I am shocked that such a spontaneous accusation of bias and a lack of confidence never mentioned in any other forum or any communication whatsoever would be the basis of a motion. This is the very kind of serendipitous, reckless kind of behavior that I would not expect of this board,” said Cannizzo.
“I’m just staggered that you would expect, under that kind of betrayal, to cooperate and make things gentle. That is a foolish assumption on your part, although you seem to make a number of foolish assumptions,” said Cannizzo before Ratnesar interrupted in an attempt to diffuse the situation.
Shortly afterwards, Cannizzo gathered his belongings and stormed out the room telling the District’s co-counsel they were free to leave. Eyewitnesses say they could hear Cannizzo yelling in the parking lot as the meeting continued.
Sawhney later refuted Cannizzo’s assertion that he was unaware of some boardmember’s lack of confidence in his legal opinions. “I have communicated it to him and others in many meetings have said the same thing,” said Sawhney.
“He’s upset because I’m trying to make a change. I heard everything he said. That’s perfectly fine. That’s his right. He made $600,000 in the last year and six months from the District for very small part-time work, so naturally when I’m trying to dislodge that it is a personal issue for him.”
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