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The Citizen

Eden Township Healthcare District boardmembers will attempt to fire their legal representation for the second time in less than a week. The District announced a special meeting for tonight less than two days after Director Dr. Vin Sawhney unsuccessfully moved to dismissed its long-time lawyer, Craig Cannizzo of Hooper, Lundy and Bookman, Inc.

The surprising turn of events at Wednesday’s night regular meeting was tempered when Director Dr. Bill West, the board’s newest member–in his first meeting–voted against Sawhney’s motion, retaining the status quo for the moment, but multiple sources say the past 72 hours have been tumultuous leaving the potential for the already thorny San Leandro Hospital saga to become far more complicated.

According to sources, Cannizzo will be fired and replaced by the current co-counsel Colin Coffey of the law firm Archer Norris, but whether such a meeting would actually occur Monday night was up in the air over the weekend.

Rogers told The Citizen the District Chair Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar voiced concern over the legality of the meeting. Ratnesar believes members of the board violated the Brown Act by allegedly colluding to call the meeting–a charge Rogers denies. “Raj is doing everything to cancel the meeting,” said Rogers. “They’re pulling at straws.”

This morning Eden Township Healthcare Distrtict CEO Dev Mahadevan said he found no such violation and the meeting will proceed as scheduled 5:30 p.m. at the Hayward H.A.R.D office.

Such a violation of the Brown Act, the landmark state law which encourages government openness, charged by Ratnesar would be an ironic twist in a story that with more surprises than an episode of “General Hospital.” Members of the community and several San Leandro councilmembers charged Ratnesar Sept. 3 with violating the Brown Act when a supporters were denied access to the meeting at Eden Medical Center.

As of today, it is unclear what led West to change is mind from cautious prudence last Wednesday to certitude on Friday? Sources say West reconsidered and sought to call the special meeting in the days after Sawhney attempted to fire Cannizzo leading the lawyer to abruptly leave the meeting. His absence left the District without legal representation for over 30 minutes.

The Citizen has also learned West met with San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos and City Councilman Michael Gregory, who represents the district where San Leandro Hospital is located. Santos confirmed the meeting and said the purpose was to provide West with the city’s perspective regarding the hospital. A source with direct knowledge of the conversation, though, says Santos and Gregory lobbied West against firing the District’s legal counsel for fear talks between Sutter Health and the county could breakdown in the aftermath.

In an email Friday, West denied any discussion about Cannizzo with city officials saying, “Michael Gregory and I have had some informal and brief talks but not over the subject of legal council for the district and it would be very incorrect to imply that in any reports of yours.”

Santos cautioned against the District’s possible move to fire its legal representation saying it may scuttle a possible “arrangement” in the works. “This is not the time for this,” Santos said Monday and later added “If the hospital is closed after June 30, it will be because of the actions of Rogers and Dr. Sawhney.”

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