Tulare hospital district settles lawsuit with former attorney

Bruce Greene, firm BakerHostetler, settle civil case filed by the Tulare Local Healthcare District for $3 million; Greene still faces criminal charges for his part in helping fellow HCCA executives steal $13 million from the hospital district

TULARE – The Tulare hospital district has recouped most of the money it paid its former legal counsel, and his law firm, who is under criminal investigation for stealing district funds.

On Jan. 19, Tulare Local Healthcare District, which oversees tax funding for the hospital, announced it had settled its claims against former attorney Bruce Greene and his firm, Cleveland-based BakerHostetler, for $3 million. 

“This is almost the total amount paid to the firm during its tenure in Tulare, which is appropriate when a clear conflict of interest existed,” Board President Kevin Northcraft said in a released statement. 

HealthCare Conglomerate Associates (HCCA), the firm hired to manage the Tulare hospital in 2014, hired Greene on Dec. 2, 2014 to serve as legal counsel for the hospital district. He, along with BakerHostetler, represented the district as legal counsel through Sept. 26, 2017, with legal fees totaling $3.3 million, according to a declaration filed by the district’s controller. During that time, Greene also served as attorney for HCCA and its CEO Yorai “Benny” Benzeevi.

The hospital district filed the lawsuit on April 24, 2019, suing Greene and BakerHostetler LLP, for breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, professional negligence and breach of contract. Greene’s alleged misconduct began a year after he was hired on May 4, 2016, when he filed a lawsuit against Dr. Abraham Betre on behalf of the district, but for the benefit of Benzeevi, even though the district was not mentioned in the lawsuit. The lawsuit was dismissed by the court on Sept. 26, 2016, which Greene appealed on Nov. 23, 2016 and which Benzeevi paid the $78,000 appellate bond with district funds, which the district lawsuit says constitutes a breach of fiduciary duty. 

In June 2017, when the hospital district could not pay its bills, which included $500,000 in delinquent legal fees owed to BakerHostetler for Greene’s time, Greene drafted board Resolution 852 giving HCCA “absolute” authority to borrow up to $22 million on behalf of the district. This was also considered a breach of fiduciary duty. 

The lawsuit also contends “Greene failed to use reasonable skill and care in the representation of the district in that he continuously acted in a manner that placed the interests of Greene, BakerHostetler, Benzeevi, and HCCA above the interests of the District.” 

The claim of negligence includes lying to the board, delaying the seating of an elected official, executing a loan the board had rescinded, all under the umbrella of his inherent conflict of interest serving as both legal counsel for the public district and the private company it hired to manage the district. The conflict of interest is also at the heart of the breach of contract argument as Greene never got consent from the district to simultaneously represent it and HCCA, which the lawsuit lays out as a violation of rules of professional conduct. 

Perhaps the most egregious act was the alleged effort by Greene and HCCA executives to subvert the seating of an elected official. Claims of fraud refer to Greene’s emails to board members in an attempt to prevent the seating of an elected official to prevent the board from undoing two actions firing his law firm from representing the hospital district and damaging the district in deals costing $4.8 million. 

In the aftermath of the election to recall former hospital board member Dr. Parmod Kumar, Dennis Mederos served as legal counsel for Senovia Gutierrez whose election to replace Kumar on the board was the turning point in the district relinquishing HCCA’s grip on its finances. In a March 20, 2020 declaration, Mederos included the certificate of election, dated July 21, 2017, before both special meetings were held, and an oath of office certificate filed by Gutierrez and signed by a judge on July 25, 2017. He also included the hospital board’s agenda for the special meeting called on July 27, 2017 including the chair’s announcement that “As a result of the recent special election on July 11, 2017, Senovia Gutierrez will replace Dr. Parmod Kumar as a Board member.” Greene himself said this is how the item should be handled in a July 21, 2017 email to fellow BakerHostetler attorney Lucas Paule and Benzeevi. “Just have the chair announced that as a result of the recent election Dr. Kumar is no longer a board member and he has been replaced by Senovia Gutierrez. I don’t see any reason for any board action to be taken. It can be fit in right after the call to order. Call it something like Chair announcement.” BakerHostetler has attempted to have the email sealed claiming they fall under attorney-client privilege. The judge overruled the motion and both emails remain exhibits in the case.

In a July 26, 2017 email, Greene told Northcraft that any actions taken by him, Jamaica and Gutierrez at the July 27 board meeting would be of “no legal force or effect” and that the “District has no intention of providing you with any assistance in holding this unauthorized meeting” even though it was agreed to by a quorum of board members. At that meeting, the three board members took swift action to rescind the loan with Celtic Leasing, terminate its contract with Greene’s law firm, BakerHostetler, and replace them with locally-based McCormick Barstow law firm.

When the board’s regularly scheduled meeting agenda for Aug. 23, 2017 was published, it included an item declaring that Gutierrez was a sitting board member, to reaffirm the board’s votes at the special meeting a month earlier. In an email less than an hour before the meeting, Green notified the other board members Linda Wilbourne had resigned from the board, effective noon that day, and that Richard Torrez was unable to attend the meeting, leaving the board without a quorum and effectively canceled the meeting. In his declaration, Northcraft countered the board only needed two board members to have a quorum if there were only three acting board members under the hospital district’s bylaws.

Seven minutes before the meeting was set to begin, Greene sent another email to Northcraft saying Wilbourne had intended her resignation to be effective at 8 a.m. the next day, meaning she was still a board member but would be unable to make the meeting. Having four active board members meant the amount needed for a quorum reverted to three present board members. Greene’s attempt to illegitamize the Aug. 23 meeting gave him time to deliver an “opinion of counsel” letter to Celtic Leasing on Aug. 28, 2017 reaffirming the district’s sale-leaseback option of $3 million in district equipment was “valid and binding.”

The district civil suit alleges, “The efforts by Greene and Baker to obstruct the seating of a duly elected public official was clearly motivated by the fact that Baker was coordinating with Benzeevi to sell District assets in an effort to, in part, pay Baker’s delinquent legal fees. This could only be accomplished if Benzeevi retained authority under Resolution 852 to sell District assets without seeking Board approval. Although Northcraft, Jamaica and Gutierrez had already voted to rescind Resolution 852, Greene and Baker engaged in a dishonest scheme to make it appear as though Gutierrez was not a legitimate board member so that Benzeevi could sell district assets without board approval and pay a portion of the proceeds to Baker.”


The case was originally filed in Tulare County but was moved to Kern County Superior Court after Baker-Hostetler argued it would be difficult to find an impartial jury in Tulare County.  The firm also successfully convinced the judge to disqualify Visalia attorney Mike Lampe from the case over exaggerated claims of a conflict of interest. 

Lead attorney for Greene and Baker & Hostetler, Harlan Watkins of Murphy, Pearson, Bradley & Feeney in San Francisco, claimed Lampe could not represent the plaintiff because he would be called by the defense to testify as a witness, making his arguments in the case confusing for the jury. 

Lampe said the defense never had any intention of calling him as a witness. In an interview with The Sun-Gazette last February, Lampe called the notion ridiculous but said he would certainly comply with the judge’s ruling.

The case was then taken over by the district’s current counsel, McCormick Barstow of Fresno. The settlement resulted from a two-day mediation session in November 2022. The District was represented by Board Members Xavier Avila and Mike Jamaica, and Attorneys Todd Wynkoop and Jason Howard.

“The District recognizes the efforts of Baker Hostetler and Bruce Greene to resolve this matter and appreciates their willingness to redress the harms alleged by the District,” stated the district after the settlement. “The District believes that this payment on behalf of Baker Hostetler and Bruce Green was made in good faith to make the District whole, and that such payment resolves the District’s dispute with Baker Hostetler and Bruce Greene.”

The District’s Board has also filed a complaint with the California Bar Association against Greene; however, it’s been two-and-a-half years and no disciplinary actions have been taken. Last summer, the district sent a letter to the state bar asking for an update and explanation as to why no action has been taken.

“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,” stated the letter signed by all five board members at the time.

The board’s letter came a few months after the state auditor found that only 7.1% of cases before the state bar went on to the hearing and discipline stage and only 5.3% of all cases were actually closed with formal disciplinary action taken.

“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.

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.


Greene is also one of three defendants awaiting trial in the largest criminal case in Tulare County history. The Tulare County District Attorney’s Office has charged Greene, as well as former HCCA CEO Yorai “Benny” Benzeevi and CFO Alan Germany with stealing more than $13 million from public hospital districts in Tulare and Lone Pine to enrich themselves.

The men face a combined 40 felony and six misdemeanor charges including misappropriation of government funds, conflicts of interest, money laundering, embezzlement, theft and failure to disclose funds intended to influence a political campaign. The intricate scheme orchestrated by the three men involved stealing medical equipment, political favors, falsifying documents and even a connection to a former Israeli private intelligence agency.

If convicted, each of the former hospital executives 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 9 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 in prison.

A preliminary hearing for the case has been set for March 13. 

Greene is being represented in the criminal case by Jeffrey Steinfeld and David Scheper of Scheper Kim & Harris, LLP in Los Angeles. The firm specializes in white collar criminal defenses, according to its web site sheperkim.com, and has been recognized as a top white collar firm by the Chambers USA Guide.

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