Political Climate with Mark Simon: Health district board member finally finds something he can support: his own benefits

Political Climate with Mark Simon: Health district board member finally finds something he can support: his own benefits

in Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate by

For more than 16 years, Jack Hickey has protested every expenditure made by the Sequoia Healthcare District, the closest he has been able to come to fulfilling the promise he made when he was elected to the District board of directors in 2002 – to abolish the district.

Except there is one expense Hickey, 84, is willing to accept – the healthcare benefit reimbursement program extended to all board members.

Over the same 16 years, he has availed himself of that singular benefit.

It adds up to a modest amount of money – a total of about $8,300 or about $43 a month — based on Hickey’s own assertion that the only health benefit he has accepted has been reimbursement for Kaiser Senior Advantage and Social Security Medicare costs.

It could be seen as trivial, except that every other single expenditure by the district has been objected to and opposed by Hickey since he joined the board.

A HOSTILE TAKEOVER: Now, for the second time, Hickey is trying to gain control of the board for the purpose of dissolving the district.

Up for re-election himself, Hickey has lined up two allies to also run for the district board – Harland Harrison and former Foster City Councilman Art Kiesel, both of whom subscribe to Hickey’s hard line view that the district should be dismantled.

For the first time, Sequoia Healthcare board members will be elected by zones. Hickey is being challenged by physician Aaron Nayfack in Zone C, which covers San Carlos to Emerald Hills; incumbent Arthur Faro is being challenged by Kiesel and former nonprofit CEO Michael Garb in Zone A, which covers Redwood Shores to Foster City; and incumbent Jerry Shefren is being challenged by Harrison in Zone E, which covers Portola Valley to Belmont.

The last time Hickey tried to pack the board with like-minded candidates, only he won election.

Hickey justified accepting the healthcare benefit because he uses his own funds to fight for the dissolution of the district, while other board members spend the district’s tax revenues “to help their friends” and “granting money to their favorite charities.” He said the other board members make politically popular grants that will ensure continued support for the district’s existence.

In a similar vein, Harrison said on a recent social media post that “the board diverted $15,800,000 in taxes last year. Much of that money was wasted.”

Diversion of funds is illegal, of course, and it’s not what the district has been doing.

The Sequoia Hospital District was formed in 1946 as a nonprofit to open and run Sequoia Hospital, the first district of its kind in California. A property tax was approved by voters to finance hospital and its activities, currently about $100 per parcel.

In 1996, the hospital was sold to Catholic Healthcare West and is now owned by Dignity Health.

Without a hospital to fund, the district has continued to collect the taxes, but has shifted to awarding grants to organizations that make meaningful contributions to the health and emotional well-being of the community, including school nurses, physical education teachers, mental health counselors and programs to feed the hungry and provide rehabilitation for drug abusers.

For Fiscal Year 2018-19, the district projected collecting more than $15 million in revenue and spending more than $16 million. Among the major grants is $4.4 million for a school health program that provides nurses, counseling and preventive care to 28,000 public school children. A clinic at nonprofit Samaritan House receives a grant of $948,000, the Ravenswood-Fair Oaks Health Center a grant of $700,000 and the new 70 Strong program, aimed at enhancing health and preventive care for seniors, $658,000. Most of the grants are for a set period of time. For example, the district just completed a three-year grant program that provided support to San Mateo Medical Center, the county-operated public hospital.

The district spends $1.1 million a year on administrative expenses, which include a CEO and a staff of four.

Recently, Hickey objected to a grant by the district to help fund the Magical Playground expected to open at the end of this year, arguing that people outside the district boundaries would use the park.

Because the district has gone to elections by zone, that may improve Hickey’s chances of gaining allies on the board.

Up to now, as he seeks his fifth term, Hickey has had little success advancing his cause, neither building meaningful public support for the dissolution of the district nor gaining influence among his board colleagues. The board votes 4-1 on nearly every action that comes before it with Hickey on the losing end.

But what we know for sure is that he will remain undeterred.

When he was elected in 2002, Hickey had run for office so many times that even he had lost count. First as a Republican and later as a Libertarian, he ran for, among many other offices, the U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress, the state Assembly and Senate, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, the San Mateo County Board of Education and the San Mateo County Community College District.

In 2012, when the board was still elected district-wide, Hickey ran against two incumbents, even though he was already on the board and was not up for re-election.

At the time, he told a newspaper that if he won, it would be a clear message that the public supports his position of eliminating the district.

He lost.

Contact Mark Simon at mark.simon24@yahoo.com.

Photo credit: Sequoia Healthcare District

*The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Climate Online.

17 Comments

    • Aaron, there is a shroud of illegitimacy surrounding the district’s “morphing” into a tax funded philanthropic organization. An election allowing voter’s to decide whether a countywide healthcare district in San Mateo County, incorporating both of the existing district’s is of such a benefit to county residents, that it warrants a dedicated share of the 1% General Property Tax. Harland Harrrison, Art Kiesel and I seek to facilitate such an election. If the voters decide that it is not, the district assets and share of tax revenue would be distributed to the agencies which share Tax Rate Area’s with those districts.

      This will take some time, during which, we will reduce/stop collection of taxes and suspend grants. Property owners will see a reduction in their taxes during this period, and stakeholders will take an active interest in resolving the issue.

  1. Hello Mr. Simon. In the interest of transparency, I want to clarify the cost of Director Hickey’s health insurance premium. The actual cost is $822.48 per month. This number has fluctuated somewhat, but amounts to about $158,000 over his 16 year tenure.

    • Ms. Kurtzman should also provide info on the other Directors, and put it up on the district website.

      Here are some facts’

      I sent this to Mark Simon on 9/17/2018:
      “When my motion to replace the Health insurance reimbursement with a meeting stipend was rejected, I accepted reimbursement for my Kaiser Senior Advantage and Social Security Medicare cost, which was less than $300/month. Several years later, the District signed me up with CalPers, which is now at 779.86/month. My Medicare is $134/month for which I receive a $127.86/quarter reimbursement from the District.”

      A visit to the Controllers website https://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/SpecialDistricts/SpecialDistrict.aspx?entityid=1581&year=2009 will show that my health insurance cost the District $7,064 in 2009.

      When I was elected to the Board in 2002, some of the Directors were costing the District more than $2,000/month in health insurance.

    • On 10/25/2018 6:38 PM Mark sent me this: “I am told you dramatically understated the amount of money you are costing the district for your healthcare benefit.
      I’m told it is costing the district $822.58 a month or a total of $158,000 for the 16 years you’ve been on the board.
      For all your whining about a “hit piece” I don’t like being misled and I will do a follow up article. Do you have any comment?”

      On 10/26/2018 10:41 AM I sent an e-mail to Mark Simon(with copy to Pamela), which stated that “The information I provided you for my current benefit is essentially the same as Pamela’s, $822.48(779.86/month. + $127.86/quarter = $822.42). She is grossly mistaken and disingenuous with her assumption that the reimbursement was the same for the past 16 years!”. That e-mail included a copy of an e-mail which I sent to Mr. Simon on September 17, 2018 which contained an unambiguous accounting of my benefits(http://www.xshcd.com/SimonSept.htm) .

      On 10/26/2018 11:16 AM, Mark sends this(with copy to Pamela):
      “So the number she provided is currently correct. More importantly, it is much higher than the number you provided me. Did you not know the correct number or were you purposely misleading me?”

      On 10/26/2018 2:16 PM, Pamela sent me an e-mail(with copy to Mark Simon) which stated “Jack, you led Mr. Simon to think that the District paid only $43.00 per month for your health insurance. I was only looking to provide accurate information when citing the true cost to the District. Regarding the total amount of money the District has paid for your health insurance over time, I will recalculate and where I was wrong, I will provide Mr. Simon the correct number. It’s all in the interest of transparency. ”

      My reply to Mark on 10/26/2018 2:57 PM(with copy to Pamela): “Mark, the information I provided you was correct. Pamela multiplied $822 x 12 x 16 = about $158,000 over his 16 year tenure. That was disingenuous. The CalPers 779.86/month is paid directly by the district. I have to reimburse the district 10% of that. They take their 10% out of my reimbursement for Medicare, which is first reduced by 10% from the actual. The only cash I receive is $127.86/quarter. When the district persuaded me to switch to CalPers(20xx?) the premium went up. I hope that Pamela provides you with the information you seek. That should include data for the other directors, some of whom were costing the district more than $24,000/year when I was elected in 2002.”

      Emboldened by Pamela’s support, Simon publishes a second “hit-piece”on October 26, 2018 18:02:32 in which he states: “What he didn’t disclose is the additional $822 a month the district has to pay for his insurance premiums.” See: https://climaterwc.com/2018/10/26/political-climate-with-mark-simon-my-hit-piece-now-packs-a-bit-more-punch/

      On 11/26/2018 10:52 Pamela sends this:
      I sent the corrections to Mark as you can see here. Sure I can post them too. It would say, “I do not have online records available to search years farther back and it would be time and labor intensive to search through the boxes of receipts between 2002-2012 to compile this information. If we average the compensation from 2013-2017 and multiply by 16 years his compensation would be around $151,692. If you include the unconfirmed 2012-2009 compensation the total is $137,754.”

      That’s garbage!

      The real total, which I have posted on Mark Simon’s 2nd “hit-piece” has the correct total of ~ $109,389.

      Congratulations, Mark and Pamela(I’m sure other credits are due) for what appears to be a cleverly crafted, election “hit-piece“! See: http://www.xshcd.com/HitPieceAnatomy01.htm

  2. The voters need to decide the future of both the Sequoia and Peninsula Healthcare Districts.

    With control of the Board, we would have the power to suspend grants, slash overhead, and reduce or suspend collection of property taxes on an annual basis. A direct savings to property owners would result. Such an action would bring stakeholders, with an interest in a share of the General 1% property tax, to the table. This would lead to a dialogue addressing the transitional status of the Sequoia and Peninsula Healthcare Districts. It is my intent to have these stakeholders join in a petition to LAFCo seeking an election to resolve the issue created when these hospital districts sold their hospitals, yet continued to collect taxes. The “status quo” is not an option. Voters must decide whether the two districts should be:
    1. dissolved; or,
    2. consolidated and expanded to include all of San Mateo county
    If dissolution is the voter’s choice, the dissolved districts taxes and assets would be distributed to the surviving agencies within their Tax Rate Areas. (Art Faro has repeatedly intimated that the state would get a large share of the tax revenue. That’s utter nonsense! The taxes would stay local.)
    As a practical matter, funding for a countywide expansion(if called for by voters) must come from a share of the existing 1% general property tax as it currently does for Sequoia and Peninsula. That is, NO NEW TAXES! That requires enabling legislation.
    Voters must decide whether Healthcare Districts are so important that they deserve dedicated funding from a share of the 1% General Property Tax.

    I ask voters who signed my referendum petitions which derailed Sequoia Healthcare District’s plan to move Sequoia Hospital down by the Bayshore in 2003, to support my efforts to bring the issue to the voters. We all enjoy the NEW Sequoia Hospital at “The Top of Whipple”.
    I also ask that they reject the 1/2% sales tax, Measure W, on the November ballot. It can be defeated. Remember the 1/2% sales tax, Measure A(a.k.a. Best Schools Proposal) in 1992? My campaign resulted in more than a 70% NO vote! See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZM3QyA0x6so&t=23s

  3. I ask voters who gave me a margin of more than 1,500 votes over 20+ year Director Art Faro in 2010 and 2014, to continue their support, and also support Harland Harrison and Art Kiesel.

  4. It’s unfortunate that Mr. Hickey runs on dissolving the district and saving tax payers money and yet he is hypocritically juicing the district for his own healthcare.

    It was a different time (after World War ll) when these districts were formed to build hospitals. It is different than the County Medical Center which provides indigent care.

    Peninsula Health Care District is the other Hospital District in our County. I hope that they can work together to better the access to health care in our County.

    Good Luck Dr… I hope We can say good bye to Jack Hickey!!

  5. I would like to address some of Mr. Hickey’s and Mr. Harrison’s remarks. Mr. Harrison states the district diverted and wasted $15,800,000 in taxes last year. Providing school nurses, mental health counselors, wellness coordinators to our schools and hot meals and daycare facilities for our seniors is not money wasted. Hopefully Mr. Harrison never needs these services.

    Mr. Hickey claims the grants are given out to friends of the board and favorite charities is nonsense. All of the nonprofit organizations that receive grants from the Sequoia Healthcare District are well respected and have demonstrated their effectiveness in serving the residents. A grants committee reviews every application for a Caring Community Grant program and makes recommendations to the board for their approval. These are organizations and not individuals providing these services.

    Mr. Hickey objects to the district providing a grant to the Magical Bridge Playground for a playground to be built in Redwood City. The City of Redwood City is projected to pay half the cost of the playground, designed to be socially inclusive for children and adults of varying physical and cognitive abilities.. The Magical Bridge Foundation is raising the remaining portion, including a grant from the district along with other funds. Mr. Hickey’s objection is that non-residents will use the playground. Using Mr. Hickey’s rationale, no city should build a park with local taxpayer money since non-residents will use it as well.

    The grants that the Sequoia Healthcare District are providing are providing important health and wellness services to district residents. The residents are our children, parents, family members and maybe even you. The county, cities and school districts either do not fund these services or cannot afford to provide these services.

    Before you vote, please pay a visit to the Sequoia Healthcare District website and learn about these services and who is receiving the grants. https://www.seqhd.org

    • On November 26, 2018, I sent this to Sequoia Healthcare District CEO, Pamela Kurtzman:

      “Pamela, since you put in so much effort on coming up with the “correct number”, I posted your comment, in context, on Mark’s “hit-piece” site.”

      After revisiting the site, Pamela had this comment:

      “And why don’t you clarify your statement.. “That’s $1,116,000 for the 2018/2019 fiscal year. CEO + staff of 2.5 FTE’s.” Was your intention to mislead the public on this comment too when you made it sound like that amount was all for salaries? “Elsie” fell for it when she said “7% admin costs to distribute grants!” But you didn’t clarify for her did you? Sickening.”

      Elsie’s post preceded mine! But let me clarify her post. First, I direct the reader to the 2018/2019 approved budget for the Sequoia Healthcare District: http://www.seqhd.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/SHD-Approved-Budget-2018-19-web.pdf

      Elsie, your figure of 7% admin costs to distribute grants is understated. The 2018/2019 budget shows Total Budgeted Expenses of $13,707,100($16,407,100- $2,700,000 pension pass-thru) Total Admin Expense is $1,056,050, or 7.7%.

      And folks, I wasn’t trying to deceive you, I was just stating 2 facts, Admin cost and Staff. See: http://www.seqhd.org/staff/
      Heidi Stamper is the 0.5 FTE. Pamela didn’t think it was necessary to list Heidi’s part time status on the website, which I had suggested in the interest of “transparency”. Just 9 minutes after Pamela responded to my “transparency” e-mail, she posted her version of “transparency” in this thread.

      NOTE: I am trying to find the source of my slightly different Admin cost of $1,116,000 which I posted on October 26, but I can not find the Agenda for the meeting at which the budget was passed on the NEW website. https://www.boarddocs.com/ca/shd/Board.nsf/Public

      So much for “transparency”!

  6. Mark Simon said: “…every other single expenditure by the district has been objected to and opposed by Hickey since he joined the board.” He insinuates that the only expenditure which I have supported is for “health insurance premium reimbursement” for Directors. That’s a lie!

    I first objected to, and opposed “health insurance premium reimbursement” for Directors in an Agenda item at our June 11, 2003 meeting. I proposed that it be replaced by a stipend for meeting attendance. In December 2012, I opposed an increase in those reimbursements. The Board majority approved the increase. They were then applied to “sitting” directors in the first 6 months of 2013. See: https://www.almanacnews.com/square/2013/11/15/open-letter-to-sequoia-healthcare-district-directors-kane-faro-and-griffin

    It is a fact that I have opposed ALL grants of property tax dollars for philanthropic purposes never intended by voters when they created the District.(although I have “abstained” on several votes) I have provided the Board with my assessment of grants with regard to their benefit to district residents. Some are, without a doubt, predominantly benefiting district residents. Other’s, with countywide service areas are not. I estimate that more than $60,000,000 of property tax dollars expended by the District since the Sequoia Hospital was first sold in 1998, have gone outside the district. The Magical Bridge Playground, an excellent resource for the larger community, is also a jewel of an asset for the City of Redwood City. It brings in sales tax revenue. And, RWC has funded much of it.

    It is also a fact that I supported the $75,000,000 investment in Sequoia Hospital when, in 2007, ownership was transferred completely to CHW(now Dignity Health). The future of that treasure, once threatened with relocation down by the Bayshore, has been secured.

    When voters have their say on the future of the Districts, I will happily retire, and let the Nayfack’s of the world contribute their solutions to healthcare problems.

  7. Mark said “When he was elected in 2002, Hickey had run for office so many times that even he had lost count. First as a Republican and later as a Libertarian, he ran for, among many other offices, the U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress, the state Assembly and Senate, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, the San Mateo County Board of Education and the San Mateo County Community College District.”

    He forgot Redwood City Elementary School District, Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District AND Governor! See my interview with John Hancock of the California Channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ft5MB_QjQLo&t=109s

    He also neglected to mention:

    My campaign in 1992 which led to the defeat of Measure “A”(a.k.a. Tom Huening’s 1/2% sales tax “Best Schools Proposal”), See Tom and I go head-to-head on KCSM’s “Legal Currents” with moderator Douglas Gray. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZM3QyA0x6so&t=60s

    My many successful campaigns to stop parcel taxes, most recently in Menlo Park.

    My campaign which led to the defeat of the Community College District’s $148,000,000.00 Bond proposal, Measure A in 1999. See: http://www.pawmeister.com/SMCCCD%20PR%20or%20Felony.htm and http://www.xshcd.com/Burruto.html
    .

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