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Legaspi resigns from $1-a-year Calexico hospital position

May 08, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The man with the keys to Calexico Hospital has resigned.

Henry Legaspi, hired for $1 a year as the Heffernan Memorial Hospital District's administrative assistant last summer, stepped down abruptly over the weekend.

On Monday, when the district's attorney, hospital trustees and financial consultant, who were working on the district's debt refinancing, showed up for a special meeting, they found a locked door.

No calls were returned by Legaspi to board members or the media. No agenda for the meeting was posted.

Board members would not comment on Legaspi's status because they were still finding out about his decision Monday.

The board's attorney, Eduardo Rivera, said the board could not take any formal action at Monday's meeting because Legaspi had not posted the agenda.

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Lupita Ortega, the board's clerk, arranged for a duplicate set of keys to be dropped off and the door was opened.

Legaspi's departure came at an awkward time because he had taken charge of negotiations with possible tenants.

During the informal meeting of the trustees there was no discussion of Legaspi.

The meeting was held to hear from Robert Swerdling, a managing director at Piper Jaffray, a Minneapolis-based financial consulting firm.

Swerdling told the district trustees the refinancing and restructuring plan will not be affected by the volatility of the California bond market.

He said the bonds will be an easy sale because of the security of the half-cent sales tax that will be used to pay off the bonds.

Last year almost $2 million was taken in by the tax approved by Calexico-area voters in 1992 to provide indigent hospital care.

In the financial breakdown of the new bond finances, only $922,843 has been slotted as sales-tax revenues.

That leaves more than a million dollars a year that will most likely be used to pay the debt.

Swerdling said sales-tax revenue was set at $922,843 as a safeguard in case revenue drastically decreases; however, he expects the revenue to increase as much or more than it has in the past eight years.

If the tax keeps producing revenue at its current or a better clip, the bond will be paid off much sooner than the 2007 target date, according to Swerdling.

Possible dates mentioned was 2004 or 2005 under extreme best-case scenarios.

Once the bonds are paid off the tax will end, according to an agreement hammered out by Robert Moreno, the city's treasurer, and Swerdling.

At Monday's meeting there was discussion of the more than $1.4 million in debt the district has outstanding apart from the bond issuance of 1996.

Because that $1.4 million will be paid off immediately after the 1996 bond is refinanced and restructured, the district has been able to have moneys knocked off the amount it owes.

In the case of MedCap of Oregon, to whom the district owes $852,000, the district will pay $150,000 less than it owes because it will be paying off the debt in one big lump sum.

With McKesson Management of San Diego, to whom the district owes $154,943, it will now pay $35,000 less.

Swerdling, acting on behalf of the board, said he didn't necessarily negotiate the deals.

"I basically told them this is what we can offer you. In five minutes they called back and accepted the deal," he said.

Next up for the board is trying to get the Calexico Redevelopment Agency to waive part of the $450,000 in debt outstanding from an RDA loan of 1997.

Rivera said it is up to the elected hospital trustees to lobby City Council members to lower the amount they will have to pay.

The district needs any money it can scrape together because the cost of refinancing and restructuring will be equal to the money it won't be paying in debt, according to Swerdling.

"It's a wash," said newly appointed hospital district Trustee Mark Perrone.

Swerdling, reading from the numbers he prepared for Monday's meeting, showed how the fees for all the attorneys and clerks needed to sell more than $9 million in bonds would be broken down.

Rivera said the board needed to take home the numbers, look them over and digest them.

He said if the member had any questions they could call Swerdling or himself.

"You'll be getting a call from me," Perrone said.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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