Dishonest, Dishonorable, Untrustworthy

by Cindy Richards, November 8, 2017

Last week I received a threatening letter from Bob Edwards, CEO at Mendocino Coast District Hospital, informing me I was to be terminated for ‘serious performance issues’ (despite a 10 year stellar performance review history) or I could go away quietly with a monetary payoff. ‘Serious performance issues’ Bob claims, yet the independent audit reports during my 10 year tenure state MCDH had some of the lowest Accounts Receivable Days at the state and national levels.

I didn’t resign, take the payoff, nor was I informed of being terminated and I’m on an approved medical leave. But this week, I discovered they are seeking applicants for my position. Let me repeat myself... I didn’t resign, take the payoff, nor was I informed of being terminated and I’m on an approved medical leave, yet they’re replacing me.

And as if posting my position without the common courtesy and professionalism of notifying me first isn’t bad enough, they are offering the new hire a base salary of $120K! I can assure you I made nowhere near that kind of money.

So, you might ask, why are they replacing me? Here’s a brief history:

This is Wade Sturgeon, the Chief Financial Officer at MCDH since September 2015. If you were to Google his name you’ll see he had some ‘serious performance issues’ during his employment in Big Bear, California:

(http://www.bigbeargrizzly.net/news/healthcare-districtleadership-shake-up/article_738b5d26-3593-11e5-a1f2-2798724c5a0d.html)

and Gridley Hospital

(http://www.krcrtv.com/news/local/butte/orchard-hospital-begins-search-for-new-ceo/10867575)

as well as the State of Washington

(http://www.goldendalesentinel.com/news/2008news/08-07-08_news.htm)

just to name a few.

I reported directly to Wade Sturgeon and just before Christmas 2016 he began harassing me, intimidating me and threatening me. I was questioning the lack of investigating surrounding many areas of concern I had notified him of repeatedly for more than six months. The harder I pushed, the worse the threats. He told me I’d lose my job to which I responded, “Do what you need to do, but these issues aren’t going to disappear with me.” Wade then told me, “Shut your mouth, do your gravy job, collect your too high pay and go home at 5, with everyone happy.”

My response was that MCDH could get into serious trouble with Medicare if they discovered Administration sat on their hands for months after the concerns were brought forward. Wade mistook my factual statement for a threat and upped the ante stating, “If you tell Medi-Cal and/or Medicare anything your entire department [The Business Office of 13 employees] will be outsourced.” In other words, myself and my staff would be out of jobs.

My duties were that of two full-time positions and after months of Wade promising additional help and a title change, Wade claimed Bob approved the changes with the condition that the position required a Bachelor’s Degree. With the chicken scratch of a red pen, I went from performing the job for 8 years without a degree to not even being qualified to apply for it. I pointed out 90% of the Director/Manager positions at MCDH did not require any degree and in holding one a person was qualified for the CFO position. I was told Bob would be changing all management positions to require degrees in the near future.

Wade then told me, “Don’t even bother applying for the Revenue Cycle position because you’re not qualified.” Two days later when the position was posted, I provided Wade with a list of duties I would no longer be performing since I wasn’t qualified. Turning red with anger, he smugly said the “all other duties as assigned” clause in every job description required me to do whatever he told me.

Why yes, Mr. Sturgeon that is true, however, you cannot assign me to perform duties I’m not qualified for such as nursing duties. You’ve made it quite clear that I’m not qualified for this position, therefore you cannot assign me to perform its duties. Had he forgotten stating repeatedly just two days before that I wasn’t even qualified to apply? Or had he and Bob arrogantly assumed that threatening a single mom with losing her job they’d have free reign to take advantage of me?

As with most bullies, Bob and Wade’s egos got in the way of seeing the ramifications of their plan. I went from being their main provider of financial data they used to make crucial operational decisions one minute to not being qualified the next minute. Very interesting choice of words, Mr. Edwards, and Mr. Sturgeon. Very interesting indeed, considering ALL the data Bob and Wade were using to abolish the OB Department, beg for subsidies from the taxpayers and threaten hospital closure was provided solely by yours truly, the “unqualified” employee.

I requested a meeting with Bob Edwards, CEO.

I wasn’t given the courtesy of a response by him or his Administrative Assistant, Gayl Moon. A few days later I was on an approved FMLA absence of five weeks. Two days after my leave began I filed a formal complaint against Wade Sturgeon, CFO for harassment and threats of termination. I was subsequently interviewed by an attorney, D’Anne Gleicher from Alameda who was hired by the MCDH Board Of Directors to conduct an investigation into allegations of harassment by Wade Sturgeon. It was during my two hour interview I learned I was not the only employee complaining of harassment by Wade. In fact there were more than four other women alleging the same treatment.

With strength in numbers, a final report being submitted by the lawyer who conducted the Sturgeon harassment issue and a five week separation from the hospital, I returned to work with cautious expectations that Bob and the board would do the right thing. However, upon returning to work, I was harassed and publicly ridiculed by the imposture of Southern charm, Bob Edwards, intimidated and harassed by Board president, Steve Lund, and asked by board member Kevin Miller, M.D. if I could “overlook” Wade’s harassing behavior and continue working alongside him. A few weeks later, in April 2017, I went on a hospital approved medical leave.

Back to the threatening letter from Bob Edwards; my response was to request a summary of the so-called performance issues, a copy of the Severance and Release Agreement and a deadline extension. Receiving no reply, I went to the hospital’s board meeting and was told afterwards by their new HR Director, Daniel Camp, to “trust him,” I’d have a reply first thing in the morning. My instincts of mistrust were spot on and I received no response. And now a week later, though I did not resign, my position is posted for a substantially more money than I was receiving.

These corrupt, contemptuous men are strutting around like saints begging for taxpayer subsidies claiming they’re necessary for the betterment of our community, while harassing, threatening, terminating and covering up unconscionable behavior. Over 25% of the hospital’s positions are vacant, many in upper and middle management. Long term employees have either left on their own or were terminated and the Administration continues to bring in high paid, low producing interims that aren’t familiar enough with our community or hospital to challenge them.

When will Enough Be Enough?

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