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by Brook Smalle, March 13, 2014
Adventist Health System West runs hospitals. Like Frank R. Howard in Willits. And Ukiah Valley Medical Center. “We reflect God’s love to our community” its tax returns claim. “By providing physical, mental, and spiritual healing.” For a price.
Adventist is a non-union shop. It operates 32 hospitals in the Western US. Each one of them a non-profit. That means no taxes. Labor costs are 20% lower. With overhead like that, what does Adventist charge? The same as union hospitals. Who reaps the benefits? The wealthy do.
Adventist West’s office is in Roseville. It’s a separate non-profit. A pretty nice one by the looks of it. With 28 board members. What’s their average pay? Over $700k a year. Yeah, baby. They’re on a mission from God. With paychecks like that, who wouldn’t be? It’s different for Adventist employees. According to Adventist lawyers, self-sacrifice is required for them. They say that Jesus doesn’t like unions. He loves one percenters instead.
Naturally, Adventist executives want more hospitals. Especially ones who can afford union wages. Like the one in Fort Bragg. Mendocino Coast District Hospital. It’s been around for 40 years. The last public hospital in the County. And the last union shop. So it’s game on.
In a pinch like that, you’d need an insider. Someone to grease the skids. Enter Wayne Charles Allen, MCDH’s Chief Executive Officer. Also the Chief Financial Officer. Allen’s a registered Republican pushing 70. A lame duck, itching to retire. The perfect man for the job. Busting the union for Adventist. Paving the way for scab labor.
It can’t happen with a healthy hospital. Not in cash-rich Mendocino. You need one that’s sick. Or at least looks that way. On its balance sheet. Presented by Wayne Allen. Backed up by his auditor, TCA Partners. The hospital has a Foundation. With the same auditor. But the audits don’t match. They’re off. By a teensy-weensy $2 million. Uh-huh.
The fog eaters spotted it. This wasn’t rocket science. How long can you hide a $2 million accounting error? As the local listserve buzzed, Allen went into damage control mode. With a public meeting in January. A charade to save the hospital. But the fog eaters were one step ahead. They’d found a professional fundraising company that Allen had hired back in 2007. One that’d raised millions. At a cost of 10%. Allen ignored it. In more ways than one.
Philanthropic Professionals Inc. was that company. But its 10% commission check never arrived. MCDH just hung onto it. So PPI went away. As MCDH’s balance sheet deteriorated, Adventist’s fat-cat board members wrung their hands. Right after prayer, of course.
The January meeting was called on short notice. But the house was still packed with fog eaters. A wet-behind-the-ears consultant mumbled his way through a PowerPoint presentation. Concluding that MCDH’s only choice was another parcel tax measure. Fundraising wasn’t mentioned. Allen reported that Adventist wasn’t interested in taking over. Not with union workers. Yecch. Then it was the fog eaters’ turn.
Union busting is familiar to the Mendocino Coast. The local sawmills did it for decades. Like Union Lumber Company in Fort Bragg. In the Great Depression, the only thing that kept them alive was a union workforce. The only way to stop that union was by shutting the sawmill down. Which is exactly what Georgia Pacific did. In 2002.
Now it’s Round Two for the fog eaters. This time in a showdown with Adventist. To break the hospital union. Or the hospital. Adventist can’t lose. With hospitals in Willits and Ukiah, how could they? It was the old sawmill owner mentality. But this time, Jesus was in charge.
The fog eaters brought up fundraising. And Allen’s $2 million accounting hiccup. MCDH and the Foundation were obviously in cahoots on this. The fog eaters demanded answers. Adventist’s little union busting operation went radio silent. So the fog eaters blew the whistle. To the IRS.
The scam was revealed on a single tax return. For 2008. From the Foundation. When all the grant money from PPI was rolling in. That tax return is slightly off. By $153,995. Who signed it? The “life partner” of a convicted embezzler. Former MCDH Board Chair Charlene McAllister. One of Adventist’s biggest fans.
Allen claims that MCDH and the Foundation aren’t connected. But that wasn’t the case in 2008. Not according to their auditor. TCA Partners says the Foundation was a component then. When all that money went bye-bye. Allen says that MCDH has no business with PPI. And never did. PPI has a notarized contract that says otherwise. Now the fog eaters have a copy.
That contract was for grant writing. PPI had one with the Foundation too. PPI applied for millions of dollars under those contracts. On behalf of both organizations. That was a problem for Adventist. A big one. How can you bust a union like that?
The fog eaters have kicked it up a notch. Grant money always leaves a trail. So the fog eaters are working with PPI to find it. Every nickel. And the unions? They’ve got a ballot initiative up this November that’ll limit Adventist’s executive pay to $450,000 a year.
God wasn’t available for comment. Neither was Jesus.