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Louis Lerma resigns post at Clinicas De Salud

March 14, 2002|By DARREN SIMON

Staff Writer

After 19 years at the helm of Clinicas De Salud Del Pueblo Inc., Louis Lerma has resigned his position effective March 29, leaving the agency's board in an unfamiliar position of searching for a new director.

During a special meeting Wednesday, the board voted to hire El Centro attorney Steven Walker to represent Clinicas as the agency transitions to a new director.

The board voted to form an ad hoc committee of board members to consider how to proceed with a search for both an interim director and a permanent replacement for Lerma.

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That committee will meet Monday and the full board has a regularly scheduled meeting set for March 28. By then the board would like to make a decision on an interim director.

Lerma's resignation comes as some board members asked that he end his tenure as director of the agency, which has grown from a nonprofit with a $2 million annual budget in 1982 to a $15 million budget today.

Lerma declined to name the board members who wanted his resignation, but said they did not represent the majority of the board.

When asked why some wanted him to leave, Lerma said only that there was some disagreement as to the direction of the agency. Still, Lerma said the final decision to resign was his alone.

He added Clinicas has grown strong enough that it can move through a transition of leadership without negatively affecting the agency.

"The Clinicas is in good position," he said. "I would not want to leave if the Clinicas was in a bad position."

Lerma added of his decision to resign, "It's time for a change."

He said he would take some time off before entering the workforce again.

Santiago Torres, vice president of the Clinicas board, was asked if the board forced or asked Lerma to resign. To both questions he answered "no."

He did not wish to comment further.

While board president Daniel Vernon was not at Wednesday's meeting, he made a statement in a press release on Lerma's resignation.

He credited Lerma for his leadership for the past 19 years.

"As a result of his leadership, Clinicas De Salud at the present time is in a strong position, having multiple sources of funding, including federal grants, state contracts, foundation funds and a strong patient revenue base."

Clinicas was founded in 1970 and has expanded from two clinics to seven with services in Calexico, El Centro and Brawley, along with other areas including Winterhaven, Niland and Mecca.

The agency offers a number of medical, dental, social and other health services, including the Woman, Infants and Children federally subsidized nutrition program.

The agency has 220 employees and in 2001 saw about 42,000 patients. There were 125,000 medical visits, 20,000 dental visits and some 6,200 WIC clients served.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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