Tulare hospital district demands answers in Greene case

After nearly two years of silence, the Tulare Local Healthcare District board sends a letter in an attempt to hold the state bar accountable and request more be done in the case of former attorney Bruce Greene 

TULARE – Tulare Local Healthcare District board members are done waiting for answers from the California state bar, and let their community along with the highest officials of state government know.  

In a letter to The State Bar of California, the Tulare Local Healthcare District (TLHD) board made it clear they are seeking answers as to why disciplinary action has not been taken in the case against Bruce Greene, the district’s previous attorney being charged with fraud and embezzlement.

The district is committed to seeing its complaint through the state bar’s disciplinary process regardless of the outcome of any criminal or civil matter against Greene, and formally requests that the state bar’s trial counsel…move forward with drafting and submitting disciplinary charges,” the letter to the state bar states. 

The hospital district is upset they have not seen progress involving Greene’s case. In efforts to hold the state bar accountable, the general council for the board, Jason Howard, wrote the letter in which all five board members signed. 

Hospital district Chief Executive Officer(CEO) Philip Smith said the board felt it was important the community know the board is and will continue to remain engaged in the case. Recent reports also point to a trend of laxed disciplinary actions by the bar.

In April, the state auditor came out with their report of The State Bar of California’s Attorney Discipline Process. The fact sheet for the audit stated that the state bar “failed to effectively deter or prevent attorneys from repeatedly violating professional standards.”

Smith said the report may have been used as a catalyst to the letter. The report offered several suggestions to the bar pointing out areas for improvement in order to properly live up to their standard and hold individuals accountable. The audit found that only 7.1% of cases went on to the hearing and discipline stage and only 5.3% of all cases were actually closed with formal disciplinary action taken.

The letter from TLHD urges the state bar to take action because the longer they wait, the opportunity for public harm increases. As well, the board feels the public should not have to wait for an answer.

“If the public cannot rely on the state bar to test the legal merits of the district’s substantiated allegations against this particular attorney, what hope does any aggrieved client have” the letter asks.

George Cardona, Chief Trial Counsel with the State Bar of California said they are unable to disclose any information or additional details in regards to this specific case. The need for a criminal case to be completed in order for the state bar to act upon an individual is not necessary, but differs on a case to case basis. 

Cardona was recently elected as the chief trial counsel in June and said the office takes the recent findings from the audit seriously.

“[The office] is taking actions to address the recommendations made in that report to further ensure that its investigations are free from conflicts or outside influence, conducted as quickly as possible given the need to gather sufficient evidence and properly serve the office’s public protection mission,” Cardona said.

Although Greene’s license remains active, there is a consumer alert on the State Bar’s website explaining to the public he has been charged with a felony.

Along with Greene, former chief financial officer, Alan Germany, and CEO Benny Benzeevi will be tried together for an abundance of charges, totalling 40 felonies between the three of them. Currently the defendants are waiting for their preliminary hearing which is set to take place on Oct. 18, 2022, according to Stuart Anderson with the district attorney’s office. 

Anderson said in addition to usual scheduling conflicts as well as COVID-19 postponements, white collar crime can simply  be incredibly time consuming when preparing for court. 

“There’s a lot of information, there’s 10s of 1000s of pages and terabytes worth of information that their defense counsel has been going through and our office has been preparing,” Anderson said. “White collar crimes take a lot of time to go to trial.”

It is alleged that the defendants used control of public hospital entities to enrich themselves through the improper use of taxpayer and private loans and other public integrity crimes. Crimes alleged include misappropriation of government funds, conflicts of interest, money laundering, embezzlement, theft and failure to disclose funds intended to influence a political campaign.

If convicted, each defendant potentially faces a significant state prison commitment. The specific amount of prison time as to each defendant varies due to the nature of the charges and California sentencing rules; however, on the most serious charge, money laundering, Benzeevi is potentially facing 13 years while Greene and Germany are each facing up to nine years. Greene and Germany have potential maximum sentences of well over a decade should they be found guilty of all of the charges and allegations, and Benzeevi is facing in excess of four decades.

The hospital district copied the governor’s office, state auditor’s office, state senators, all levels of local government and a victim witness on the letter.

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