Voice: El Centro city attorney's office provides many services

June 30, 2002

Apparently there are many members of the public, including a local attorney and an editorial writer, who are unaware of the fact El Centro Regional Medical Center is owned and operated by the city of El Centro. Why is that important? In your editorial of June 14 concerning the Calexico city attorney you stated: "And as Rood pointed out, Calexico's legal budget is half that of El Centro's and the difference in size of the cities and the size of their government functions is nowhere that."

Unfortunately, your editorial was well as your newspaper's recent articles that mention the differences in budget between the Calexico and El Centro city attorney's offices fail to provide some important facts. The city of El Centro employs two full-time in-house attorneys who work exclusively for the city of El Centro and its agencies. The attorneys for El Centro have a combined 43-plus years of municipal law experience. In addition to the city of El Centro, the city attorney's office provides legal counsel to El Centro Regional Medical Center, all of its departments and the board of trustees of ECRMC. ECRMC has an ongoing $30 million expansion and modernization project and an annual operating budget in excess of $100 million.


When ECRMC purchases supplies, equipment, software and services or leases, remodels or builds new buildings, all the documents for those items are reviewed or prepared by the city attorney's office. When ECRMC disciplines an employee, the city attorney's office provides legal advice and usually handles any appeal that results. When the ECRMC board of trustees and each of its standing committees meet, the city attorney's office attends all of their meetings and provides legal advice. This is just a sample of the types of services provided to ECRMC by the city attorney's office.

With a few exceptions, ECRMC is subject to the same laws as any other public agency, such as open meetings, public records, conflict of interest and public bidding laws.

The city attorney's office provides legal counsel to ECRMC pursuant to city code section 2-115, which states, among others things, the city attorney is legal counsel to all city agencies mentioned in the El Centro city code. El Centro's municipal hospital is mentioned in Chapter 13, Article III of the city code and provides that the hospital is to be governed by a seven-member board of trustees appointed by the City Council. Currently, two council members serve on the board — one as an ex-officio non-voting member and one as a regular voting member.

The El Centro city attorney's office became a two-person office in March 1986, shortly after the City Council returned the governance of ECRMC, then known as El Centro Community Hospital to a separate board of trustees. As many may recall, the City Council was forced to remove the board of trustees of ECCH in the early 1980s and govern ECCH itself because of management and financial problems. The city attorney's office has provided continuous legal counsel to ECCH/ECRMC for nearly 23 years.

How do I know all of this? It's because I have been employed by the El Centro city attorney's office on two occasions, from March 1986 through June 1989 and from February 1995 through present as the associate city attorney and have done much work for ECRMC during these periods.

Consequently, I believe it is important for anyone comparing the budgets between the Calexico and El Centro City attorney's offices to also accurately compare their respective governmental functions. Hopefully, this letter will do that for your readers and newspaper.



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