California Fair Political Practices Commission says two Elk Grove Councilmembers disqualified from voting on California Northstate hospital project

In a four-page letter dated September 30, the California Fair Practices Commission said two Elk Grove City Councilmembers should not participate in votes involving the controversial California Northstate University hospital project as it would present a conflict of interest (the letter can be viewed below). 

The letter, to Elk Grove City Attorney Jonathan Hobbs said District 1 and 2 councilmembers Darren Suen and Pat Hume should recuse themselves because their wife's employment with competing health care providers can present a conflict of interest. Suen and Hume's wife work for Dignity Healthcare and Sutter Health respectively. 

The letter from FPPC general counsel David Bainbridge wrote:

"Where a reasonably foreseeable financial effect would result in a change in the organization’s annual gross receipts, or the value of organization’s assets or liabilities, in an amount equal to or more than $1,000,000, or 5% of the organization’s annual gross receipts, the financial effect is deemed “material.” (Regulation 18702.3(a)(3).) As Dignity has already secured approval from the City to construct a new hospital in the City, it is reasonably foreseeable that if another medical care provider were to open a medical center and campus, including a teaching hospital, in the City, Dignity would be financially affected."

Bainbridge concluded by saying a "decision [on the project] would present a reasonably foreseeable, material financial effect on Sutter, in which Councilmember Hume has a source of income interest." 

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Interestingly, an internal memo (see entire memo below) dated August 27 to the Elk Grove City Council, Hobbs opined the opposite of the FPPC's ruling. Using different analysis tools, Hobbs said that neither councilmember would be disqualified from voting on the controversial project as the economic interest was not significant. 

According to claims posted on the Neighbors Ensuring Stonelake Transparency's website, a group opposed to the project, CNU asked to have Suen and Hume remove from voting saying they could not control how they voted. As of this posting, CNU has not been contacted to comment on that assertion. 

If Suen wins his reelection bid, and should any vote on the project come before December 2022, when Hume has announced he will depart the Elk Grove City Council, both will have to recuse themselves from all proceedings. With their recusal, any approval - should Suen be reelected and before Hume leaves office, would have to be 3 - 0. 

Currently, Mayor Steve Ly is on record for supporting the 12-story $900 million project in the current location. Ly's challengers in this year's mayoral race are Bobbie Singh-Allen, who has not taken a position for or against the project's location, and Brian Pastor who says he supports it but at the location of former Outlet Collection at Elk Grove on Highway 99 and Grant Line Road.  

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Eye on Elk Grove said...

Begs the question: Did Pat Hume and Darren Suen already violate the FPPC's ruling by voting in favor of CNU when it comes their approval for their "non-profit" funding?

D.J. Blutarsky said...

I agree Eye On...betcha we gotta 'nuther violation here.

"Just following Hobbs' advice" doesn't cut it anymore, or did it ever?

Steve L said...

Welcome to Double Jeopardy where the stakes are doubled.
Suen: I'll take Elk Grove News for $1,000.

Alex Trebec: The answer is: He puts Elk Grove councilmemebers in peril whenever he advises and makes almost $400,000 per year for that advise.

Suen: Who is Steve Ly.

Alex: No, I'm sorry, the correct question is: Who is City Attorney John Hobbs.

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