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Clinicas board president turns in resignation

March 22, 2002|By DARREN SIMON

Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — In what may be an indication of mounting tension within Clinicas De Salud Del Pueblo, the nonprofit's board president, Daniel Vernon, has submitted a letter of resignation.

Vernon's resignation comes as Louis Lerma, the director of Clinicas who will resign from his post March 29, raised questions over the hiring of an interim director.

An ad-hoc committee of the Clinicas board earlier this week named Brawley-based consultant George Thomas as interim director starting Monday.

Thomas has served as a consultant for Clinicas and Campesinos Unidos Inc., both based in Brawley.

He came to the Valley from Los Angeles two years ago and said in an interview this week he has 30 years of experience in the health-care industry.

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In an interview Thursday, Lerma said the ad-hoc committee did not have the authority to hire anyone. He said the full board had only assigned the ad-hoc committee to make a recommendation to the full board.

The board is set to meet Thursday, four days after Thomas will have started his duties as interim director.

Lerma also questioned whether Thomas is the right choice to lead Clinicas in the interim while the board seeks a permanent director.

"My recommendation to the board of directors is that they should hire an interim director from within," Lerma said.

He added of Thomas, "I don't think he has the relevant expertise of operating a health-care center. He is not familiar with all the details of Clinicas' operation."

Thomas was out of town today and was unavailable for comment.

Lerma resigned after leading Clinicas for 19 years. His resignation came after some board members asked him to resign.

While Lerma pointed out some on the board did want him to leave the position, he said it was not the majority of the board, and the decision to resign was his own.

Lerma announced his resignation Feb. 28, stating he would serve one more month as director of the largest nonprofit organization in the Imperial Valley.

With Lerma's departure one week away, Vernon — who is serving as board president — tendered his resignation in a letter dated March 20.

Vernon will make his resignation official when the board meets Thursday.

Vernon declined to comment on his resignation.

However, in his letter he talks of a split between the board.

"A united board is not always attainable," he states. "The events of the last two months show a definite split among the board. There have been actions taken by some board members that appear to ignore the position of president."

In the letter Vernon does not elaborate on the events of the last two months or speak in detail about what actions he thinks board members have taken that ignore his authority as president.

He does state, "There should be some courtesy and respect for the position of president. If it is intentional or not, I do feel that my position as president is a title only."

In an interview this morning, Miguel Miranda, also a member of the board, said he was shocked to learn Vernon had submitted his resignation.

Miranda said he is concerned the board has become divided.

He also voiced concern about the process the ad-hoc committee used in selecting Thomas.

Miranda, who is a member of the ad-hoc committee, was absent from the meeting in which Thomas was selected.

Miranda said he was under the impression the five-member committee's role was only to make a recommendation to the full board.

However, Miranda said he did receive a memorandum signed by four members of the committee and four members of the board that were not on the committee that states Thomas has been selected and will start Monday.

The full board consists of 14 members.

Thomas was notified Tuesday that he had been named interim director.

Isidoro Romero, a member of the board and president of the ad-hoc committee, was unavailable for comment this morning.

He did say in an interview earlier this week that Thomas has the experience to run Clinicas on an interim basis while a search is conducted for a permanent director.

He said Thomas would serve 90 days.

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

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