Benny Benzeevi, call your office.
Tuesday, Tulare voters dealt a crushing hand to their hospital, Tulare Regional Medical Center, delivering a 33-point rebuke to deny the hospital of more than $55 million in funding to complete a project that started in 2005.
To voters, the defeat of the measure was as much self-inflicted by hospital management as anything else.
The measure aimed to complete TRMC’s new, and incomplete, tower. The tower project began following the overwhelming passage of an $85 million bond measure a decade ago.
In the intervening years, costs spiraled and accusations of misappropriation of funds turned the new tower project into the “Tower of Shame.” The project eventually became the subject of a grand jury investigation.
This year, Benzeevi – chief executive of TRMC parent company Health Care Conglomerate Associates (HCCA) – propelled himself into a role of political prognosticator in the county.
As the intense primary between Assemblyman Devon Mathis and Woodlake Mayor Rudy Mendoza grew to a fever pitch, accusations that Mathis played a role in avoiding oversight of the Tower of Shame came to light.
Benzeevi, HCCA and the California Hospital Association parachuted in to support Mathis, who ultimately won the primary by a considerable margin.
Along with the Mathis-Mendoza civil war, Benzeevi opted to meddle in Kaweah Delta’s Measure H during the June Primary. Benzeevi unloaded a $38,000 mailer to knock the Visalia hospital’s campaign – which was also rejected by voters.
“The results of the election are an accumulation of the lack of public trust in the hospital and its leadership, despite their efforts to improve transparency and accountability,” Chris Telfer, head of the Tulare County Taxpayers Association said in a statement. “Instead of using scare tactics against opponents, hospital leadership should work with the community to forge a long-term relationship to rebuild that public trust.”
Tulare County voters have the opportunity to complete a trifecta and kill three tax hikes in a single year. Visalia voters will be voting on the Essential Services Protection Measure (ESPM).
ESPM is a sales tax hike that has advocates argue will aid public safety. Critics note that the funding is likely headed to the City of Visalia’s exhausted pension fund.
In Tulare, at least, Benzeevi’s months of prognostication did little to convince voters to waste another $55 million.
“We were glad to see the people of Tulare stand up for what is right,” Telfer said.