Refusals, walkouts disrupt quorum at Tulare health department

Board secretary Xavier Avila walks out in protest after board president Kevin Northcraft refuses to hear the Veterans Affairs presentation for a facility in Tulare

TULARE – The present-day board of the Tulare Local Health Care District prides itself on not being a “rubber stamp” board. It’s a stark contrast from their predecessors under the management of Healthcare Conglomerate Associates which led to a period of corruption, criminal indictment and bankruptcy.

But with the district down two board members operating at a minimum quorum of three—with board member Phil Smith’s resignation imminent as he will replace Sandra Ormonde as the district’s CEO, and board director Senovia Gutierrez having resigned Oct. 1—disagreements on hot ticket items have now disrupted the board’s ability to conduct business.

At the Nov. 17 board meeting during a discussion about scheduling a special meeting to hear the Veterans Affairs’ pitch for lease proposals, board president Kevin Northcraft indicated that he would not participate, effectively vetoing the proposed meeting, as a quorum of three is needed to hold a meeting.

In response, board secretary Xavier Avila stormed out of the meeting in protest, effectively ending the meeting due to lack of quorum. Avila later told The Sun-Gazette he didn’t think Northcraft fully understood that electing to not participate in a meeting is an effective veto under a quorum of three.

“I made the decision to demonstrate that by walking out, knowing the meeting would have to adjourn for lack of a quorum,” Avila said. “I considered my action a protest. Giving proper medical treatment to veterans is very important to me and I felt not allowing the board to hear a proposal that would expand healthcare to veterans was failing to live up to the district’s mission.”

Avila said he has great respect for Northcraft and his actions were not personal, they were done in service to the board and he intends to remain a team player. Northcraft told The Sun-Gazette in hindsight his intent was not to veto the meeting, but that he had simply already heard the VA’s presentation for lease proposals from earlier this year.

“What I didn’t realize is with Phil resigning, potentially we’ll only have three members,” Northcraft said. “I could effectively veto the other two’s opportunity, and I didn’t want to do that. That was not my intent.”

Northcraft said he would be a part of the special meeting Nov. 23, where the board is expected to hear the VA’s presentation. The board will also interview any new district 3 candidates that met the extended Nov. 22 noon deadline to apply for the vacant board seat.

Avila has spoken adamantly in favor of securing a VA facility in Tulare even if it means coexisting with the Evolutions Fitness Center. Northcraft has said offering the gym as a viable site has been a means to an end to get their foot in the door to have a conversation with the VA about another site, and has vocalized he does not support the VA moving into Evolutions at the cost of the gym or coexisting with it.

Back in July, the board quashed the idea of leasing Evolutions to the VA at the cost of their gym, consequently costing the city further consideration for a VA site, as the district could not secure any other suitable property by the deadline. The VA has since renewed its solicitation for lease proposals in Tulare and Visalia with offers due by Dec. 14, and the hospital district is again gunning for a site.

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