At a meeting of the Eden Health District that had an almost surreal fly-on-the-wall feel, its Board of Directors quarreled Wednesday evening over the proposed pay and limited work hours contained in a proposed contract for former Eden Hospital administrator George Bischalaney to become the beleaguered health care district’s interim CEO.
After charges by one district director that the board’s chair, former San Leandro Councilmember Gordon Galvan, was working behind the board’s back to attract Bischalaney’s services for $17,333 a month in salary for a minimum of 16 hours per week, no vote was ultimately taken to approve the contract.
“Seventeen thousand a month is outrageous,” Eden Health District Director Roxann Lewis said.
The proposed contract, however, did not include any health benefits, nor paid vacation time. Bischalaney’s primary role, for the duration of the three month contract, was to begin a search for a permanent full-time CEO.
Galvan said Bischalany communicated to him that he would only accept the position of interim CEO if Wednesday’s vote was unanimous. Eden Health District Directors Lewis and Mariellen Faria indicated, earlier on, they would oppose the terms of Bischalaney’s contract.
“I’m not going to call for a vote because it’s pointless,” Galvan fumed. “He’s not coming. So, somebody else go find our interim CEO. Somebody else go do this work because I’m not doing it anymore.”
This is public money. It’s not yours. It’s not mine.-Roxanne Lewis, Eden Health District director alleging closed doors machinations by the board’s chair to install a new interim CEO
Both Lewis and Faria voiced concern over Bischalaney’s insistence the proposed contract include language that he work 16 hours per week. The figure is just a placeholder, Galvan responded. “He’s going to work whatever the job requires.”
“How do we know that? It says 16 [hours],” Lewis said.
The issue of many hours Bischalaney would work had come up in prior conversations. Lewis said the board wanted 20 hours written into the proposed contract, but Bischalaney strongly opposed the revision.
“You went out and started negotiating before we gave you the right to negotiate and you did it without anybody knowing it,” Lewis told Galvan. During a closed session on Nov. 7, Galvan pressed the board to quickly sign the contract, she added. But the district’s legal counsel advised them the contract must be approved during an open session.
“This is public money. It’s not yours. It’s not mine,” Lewis said. “This was sort of made without anybody knowing about it until you brought it forward as almost a done deal.”
In an interview after the meeting, Galvan responded to allegations that he was making backdoor deals to hire Bischalaney. “If I was working behind the scenes it would be done. I’m trying to give them something for consideration. That’s what they’re calling working behind the scenes,” he said.
Lewis, later contended the deal before the board Wednesday exceeded the average salary of former Eden Health District CEO Michael Mahoney, who was ousted by a majority of the board earlier this month.
Galvan said Bischalaney’s proposed contract was based on Mahoney’s salary, but only as starting point in negotiations. “This is totally all around the bases and a home run for George Bischalaney,” Lewis shot back.
Faria, too, found the proposed pay exorbitant. “It makes us look like we’re not being stewards of the budget,” she said.
The point could loom large. In recent years, Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Bill Quirk, along with some members of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, and elected officials in Hayward and San Leandro, had pushed for dissolution of the Eden Health District.
One of their main criticisms was the district spent too heavily on executive and administrative costs. The Alameda County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) ultimately decided against dissolution, yet some of the same opponents of the district are again quietly raising similar questions about its future. They also doubt the district serves a purpose since it does not actually oversee a hospital anymore.
In addition, Faria questioned why Bischalaney chose not to attend Wednesday’s board meeting. Galvan said he believed approval of the contract would be perfunctory, and added, “He doesn’t want to sit here and debate whether he’s worthy or not. He believes he’s worthy, and so do I. If you don’t believe he’s worthy, vote him down.”
Galvan argued the salary terms were commensurate with those leading other local government health care entities. “If you want good people. You want smart, talented people. You have to pay,” Galvan said.
But when it became clear Bischalaney would not receive unanimous approval from the board, Galvan lashed out at Lewis.
“It’s another example of minority rule because you vetoed it and stopped George from taking this position,” Galvan told her. “Find somebody else for 50 bucks an hour or something.”