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PDH board decides not to appeal judge’s ruling

Linda Satchwell
Staff Writer

The Plumas District Hospital board met in closed session Thursday, May 13, and decided not to appeal the court decision announced Monday, May 10.

The board reported out with the following written statement in response to Judge Kelly’s order for a mail-ballot election Aug. 31 using the tax initiative proponents’ ballot language and for an injunction prohibiting the district from issuing any more bonds:

“Although we were extremely disappointed and feel the judge’s ruling on the Writ of Mandate was contrary to California law, the (Plumas District) Hospital Board voted today not to appeal the ruling, although we feel confident we could prevail.

“Instead, in the interest of the community, we will move forward with an election on Aug. 31, to decide the future of health care in Quincy.

“We eagerly wait to hear from the hospital opponents in detail how their tax limitation initiative will secure the long-term viability of health care in Quincy. They put this initiative on the ballot and the community deserves to hear their plan.”

Initiative proponent Bob Zernich responded, “I take exception to the term ‘hospital opponents.’ We are not opponents, we support the hospital resoundingly ... It’s the tax on bonds that we take exception to. The issue is the tax, not the hospital ... I love the hospital.”

Board member John Kimmel said later the board and the hospital’s attorneys felt if they appealed, they would certainly win on two of the three points — the election date and the bond sale prohibition.

Kimmel said, however, “My interest is the hospital (so) these points aren’t important.” He added that he’s eager now to get to the vote, though he would have preferred to wait until Nov. 2 for an election so voters would know whether the hospital could get the USDA (low-cost) loan.

“My purpose isn’t to win,” said Kimmel. “It’s to find out what the public wants and then we’ll know what we can do.”

He reiterated what he’s said many times before — that he would have preferred a survey rather than an election. First, it’s much less costly he said. Second, because more questions can be asked, the community’s true intent comes through more clearly.

Cost was another factor in deciding whether to appeal Kelly’s decision. Kimmel said special counsel Michael Colantuono’s fees for this case were covered by PDH’s insurance carrier, BETA Healthcare Group.

Commenting on the petitioners’ criticism of the hospital for spending taxpayers’ money on litigation, he said if initiative proponents were so concerned, why were they “asking $10,000 for legal fees? They’re talking out of both sides of their mouths.”

The PDH board met again Monday morning, May 17, to pass a new resolution in compliance with Judge Kelly’s order “calling a special all-mail ballot election to submit to the voters of the district a proposed initiative measure and certain related matters.”

Included in the resolution is a copy of the ballot measure as set forth by Kelly and a statement directing hospital district secretary Valerie Flannigan “to file a certified copy of this resolution with the Plumas County Clerk of the Board of Supervisors and the county Registrar of Voters in sufficient time so that the measure may be included in an all-mail ballot for August 31, 2010.”

As outlined by Kathy Williams, the county elections office will proceed on the following schedule: After the supervisors (at their May 18 meeting) authorize the elections official to conduct the special election Aug. 31, a Notice of Election will appear in the newspaper May 26.

Arguments for and against the measure (a maximum of 300 words) may be submitted during a 10-day period, from May 26 – April 4.

Immediately following that, rebuttals to arguments for and against the initiative may be submitted (maximum 250 words) during the 10-day period April 7 – 14.

Vote-by-mail ballots for the election will be mailed Aug. 2, and voters must have their ballots in the elections office at the courthouse by 8 p.m. election day, Aug. 31.

Williams explained the ballot count begins Aug. 21, with each ballot tallied by optical scanner. Only when the “End election,” button is pressed at precisely 8 p.m. does the machine print out a total vote count.

Immediately after getting the print-out total, Williams will announce the election results by posting it on the county website and faxing the media.

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