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Allegations: Mathis looked other way while Tower of Shame toppled

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Allegations: Mathis looked other way while Tower of Shame toppled

New allegations put Assemblyman Devon Mathis at the center of the Tower of Shame controversy in Tulare County.

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Two major Tulare County storylines just intersected thanks to bombshell allegations aimed at Assemblyman Devon Mathis.

The allegations: that Mathis deliberately avoided investigating a failing public works project because he owed key stakeholders “a favor.”

The allegations were first reported by Dave Adalian at The Valley Voice.

The allegations stem from a Tulare County Grand Jury investigation into the near-decade-long construction of a new tower at Tulare Regional Medical Center has placed the district responsible for managing the hospital, Tulare Local Health Care District, in boiling hot water.

The report, released roughly two weeks ago, discusses the sheer incompetence of the district and its deliberate withholding of information from the its own Bond Oversight Committee over the expenditure of $85 million in funds.

The report and the Tower of Shame fallout, which has extensively been covered by The Valley Voice, put three characters front-and-center.

The first: Dr. Benny Benzeevi. Benzeevi is the CEO of Health Care Conglomerate Associates, the company that operates TRMC. In his role, Benzeevi is “tasked with completing the Tower Project,” The Valley Voice‘s Dave Adalian wrote.

The Grand Jury report trots out the failure of the project in spectacular fashion and places much of the blame for the failings and lack of oversight compliance on the shoulders of Benzeevi and the TLHCD Board.

Second: Assemblyman Devon Mathis. Mathis is nearing the end of his freshman term in the State Assembly, having pulled off the upset of 2014 by defeating Woodlake Mayor Rudy Mendoza. Mathis is an Army veteran, rising to the rank of sergeant before discharge, and served as a veterans advocate prior to his election.

Mathis, it should be noted, is facing Mendoza again. Two years removed from their historic election, two men have switched positions, as Mendoza is seen as the outsider and Mathis – backed by every member of the Assembly Republican Caucus – is the new insider.

Lastly: Alberto Aguilar. Alberto Aguilar is a retired postal worker and former Tulare County grand juror whose curiosity largely sparked the wide-ranging investigation into the Tower of Shame.

There are a litany of issues facing the Tower of Shame – exorbitant spending, the dissolution of the district’s Bond Oversight Committee, negligent cost projections, the district’s new bond seeking $35 million more than needed to complete the project, to name a few.

“Tulare Regional Medical Center has long been embroiled in controversy and its time to clear the air with taxpayers to regain the public trust,” Chris Telfer, president of the Tulare County Taxpayers Association said. “It’s vitally important to get these concerns addressed before any additional bond is voted on.”

Despite all the issues facing TRMC and the Tower of Shame, none stand more starkly than this:

Aguilar, who – with the help of a former TRMC chief executive officer – sorted through the minutiae of a multi-million construction project, sought out the firm figures on the Tower of Shame project through one very powerful vehicle: the California legislature.

The Valley Voice reported that Aguilar contacted Mathis requesting that the freshman legislator launch an audit via the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.

Mathis refused the request and, according to Aguilar, made a glaring admission.

“(Mathis) said he wouldn’t do it because he owes Dr. Benzeevi a favor,” Aguilar told Valley Voice‘s Adalian. “Apparently, (Benzeevi)’s helping (Mathis) with a hospital in the Sierra.”

The hospital in question? The recently-shuttered Lone Pine Hospital, the lone facility of Southern Inyo Hospital District. The deal between Health Care Conglomerate Associates and Southern Inyo Hospital District is unique. The major deal points include Health Care Conglomerate Associates fronting initial operating capital via loans to Southern Inyo and providing the district with counsel to handle its Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

Ironically, the deal was heralded by Bishop-based KSRW as Benzeevi’s bet “on his own ability to duplicate the turn-around his firm made at Tulare Regional Medical Center.”

Additionally, Benzeevi’s company maxed out to Mathis’ reelection effort at the fundraising deadline for the fourth quarter of 2015.

The allegations of owing a favor to an embattled hospital chief come at perhaps the worst possible time for Mathis. The terrain for his Assembly seat is different than in 2014. Instead of a litany of candidates, there are only three: two Republicans (himself and Mendoza) and one Democrat (Ruben Macareno).

Bowing to favors owed to duck an audit into the Tower of Shame could prove to be valuable ammunition to Mendoza whose preferred end game would be to knock Mathis out in the primary and defeat Macareno in the November general election.

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Alex Tavlian

Alex Tavlian is the owner of Sultana Media. Views expressed reflect those of the author only. He can be reached at



  1. Dave Adalian

    April 20, 2016 at 9:36 am

    If you like that story, wait until you see what we’re publishing tomorrow. — Dave

  2. Kelly

    April 20, 2016 at 11:22 am

    Reporting that Mathis owed Benzeevi a favor, (kind of like you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours) as a “bombshell” is a little bit of a exaggeration. I’m quite certain that these kind of happenings are the norm, particularly in this line of work. Its not always what you know but who you know…..I also don’t foresee any of this really tarnishing the reputation of Mathis enough to influence the vote.

  3. Renee

    April 21, 2016 at 1:58 am

    “….According to Aguilar, [Mathis] made a glaring admission.” ‘(Mathis) said he wouldn’t do it because he owes Dr. Benzeevi a favor,’ Aguilar told Valley Voice‘s Adalian. ‘Apparently, (Benzeevi)’s helping (Mathis) with a hospital in the Sierra.’ ”
    In legal terms this is considered *hearsay*… it’s not even enough to qualify as a Grand Jury “Reason(s) for Investigation.” Only one of its members claims to have heard Mathis say it, when there were no witnesses present and no oath taken. In the end this won’t change Mathis’s sizable following an whit, add to that his weight as an incumbent and he’ll be handily voted back in.

    • Dave Adalian

      April 21, 2016 at 2:40 pm

      While it is hearsay, the pages of the Valley Voice aren’t a court of law. There’s little chance this will ever end up in court, so this is the only chance the people in Mathis’ district will have to hear this about him. I find Mr. Aguilar to be a very credible individual with years of service to his community as a volunteer, postal worker and veteran. I have no questions about his veracity whatsoever.

      I spoke to Mr. Aguilar further just this weekend, and the Voice will be publishing the text of his letters to Mathis, along with the 21 supporting documents he and former TLHCD CEO Bob Montion compiled that were included in those letters. We will also be publishing the text of his letter to Assemblyman Luis Alejo, in which he asks again for an audit of TLHCD’s bond spending.

      You can read the article we published this week here:

  4. Renee

    April 21, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Who said anything about court? I said the hearsay from one GJ member, whether or not he or his words come across as “reliable” to you, won’t make a bit of difference in the odds of Mathis being reelected. And I don’t read the Voice anymore, unless someone brings a serious error to my attention.

    • Dave Adalian

      April 21, 2016 at 3:01 pm

      My mistake. I assumed you understood “hearsay” is a legal term with a precise technical meaning. I find it interesting you dismiss the Voice to readily. I’ve always been intrigued by individuals who refuse to read what’s available entirely. One might as well be illiterate.

  5. Renee

    April 21, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    “Illiterate,” really? ….i.e. everyone who doesn’t pick up everything in print floating around out there and spend valuable time on it? Ha! Feel free to get over yourself. 😀

    • Dave Adalian

      April 21, 2016 at 3:24 pm

      Willful ignorance of information very relevant to your comments when it’s dropped in your lap is the height of laziness. That kind of behavior, that kind of nose-in-the-air attitude, is how we got the elected officials we have in the first place. Well done.

  6. Renee

    April 21, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Drama queen much? Logical fallacies fan? Btw if you ever arrive at the “getting over yourself” part you might consider growing some skin at the same time, Mr. “reporter.” Lol! Hope this helps. 😉

  7. Steve

    April 23, 2016 at 7:18 am

    I called Assemblyman Alejos office and asked if he had requested and audit. They not only are not requesting an audit but they have never heard of or from Mr. Agular. He never contacted them. So much for your credible source. But I’m sure everything else he said is true… SMH

    (EDITOR’S DISCLOSURE: A review by CVO Management, in light of recent revelations by The Valley Voice, unveiled that this comment was posted by Sean Doherty, Chief of Staff to Asm. Devon Mathis).

    • Dave Adalian

      April 25, 2016 at 12:29 am

      The person posting as “Steve” is really Sean Doherty, Devon Mathis’ chief of staff. He’s been posting under the same false name at, making the same claims. The comments were traced back to Doherty. He apparently hasn’t realized yet he’s been discovered, so the comments are still up as of 12:28 a.m. April 25.

      • Renee

        April 25, 2016 at 12:42 am

        Most readers here use a nick/alias, first name, etc. Have you considered responding to his statement?

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