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BCHF: Who is in Charge?

 

Last updated 11/19/2020 at 3:46pm



Dan Anderson, current chairman of the Borrego Community Health Foundation (BCHF) distributed a press release on Oct. 20 naming Dr. Edgar Bulloch, the new interim Chief Executive Officer, replacing former CEO Mikia Wallis. This, after naming Mark Connelly, BCHF Chief Operations Officer (COO), as the interim CEO, only weeks ago. Why the change of heart? Perhaps, Connelly, as the former COO would appear too conflicted given his working relationship with Wallis and Bruce Hebets.

After all, how could the COO not know what was going on – specifically, practices that prompted an FBI, along with the California and Washington Departments of Justice investigation into the Foundation. Perhaps Connelly will be the real CEO behind the scenes, with Dr. Bulloch – the public’s smiley face.

This is the second promotion for Dr. Bulloch in a short period of time. An obstetrician-gynecologist by training, he was recently promoted to Chief Medical Officer prior to being named CEO. Apparently, a well-liked doctor, while he might grow into the position of Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Bulloch does not have the administrative credentials to be CEO. Probably from Anderson’s point of view that makes him easier to manipulate. Bulloch is obviously a team player; but like so many of the Foundation’s officers, he lacks the critical skills and experience needed to run a network of clinics, pharmacies and dental services.

Then there’s Mikia Wallis, former CEO. Is she still involved, drawing her salary as an independent consultant? How about Dr. Alfredo Ratniewski, the former executive chief medical officer? Both were intimates and collaborators of the late Bruce Hebets, mastermind of the profiteering practices that became the modus operandi of BCHF.

Anderson reported previously that Wallis was staying on to answer “questions.” And, as he explained, the Foundation had yet to negotiate her separation agreement. Meanwhile, as far as the Sun can ascertain, she is still earning $500 plus monthly. Certainly, the investigation into BCHF are grounds for firing her outright. Taxpayers do not owe her any more money. She failed at her responsibilities as CEO, and failed the vulnerable populations the Foundation is supposed to serve. The only questions she will be answering will be asked by the FBI. No need to buy her silence by paying her three years of her salary. The cat is out of the bag… so to speak.

What about firing the short-termed CEO Mark Connelly? Is he back to being the Chief Operations Officer? If so, how could he still be employed? It defies logic that the COO did not have a clue about the illegal activities. How about firing all the officers, beginning with Chief Financial Officer Diana Thompson? She signed the Foundation’s flawed tax disclosures, participated in all decisions with Hebets, Wallis, and other co-conspirators, planning ways to profit from a federal non-profit. Then there’s Anna Navarro, Human Resources, who happily hired, without competition or compunction, an inordinate number of family relatives and friends of the foundation’s officers, including her own relatives.

Shouldn’t Tim Martinez, Chief Dental Officer, who had was the liaison with Premier Healthcare Management – the questionable manager of BCHF’s miraculously and mysteriously, expanding dental clientele – also be canned? In fact, how any officer or director, or manager can claim ignorance and innocence is amazing. That goes double for Dr. Ratniewski, a beneficiary and part of every self-aggrandizement scheme Hebets devised. He supposedly resigned along with the other Chief Medical Officer Daoud Ghafari. Both were drawing salaries of $600,000 plus, not counting extra benefits. Last sighting of Dr. Ratniewski was as an independent contractor drawing a mere $400,000 from the Foundation.

According to sources, the national employment search for a BCHF CEO has been cancelled, even though Anderson stated a permanent CEO would be named in six months. Probably a wise decision, considering that the board of trustees, even Chairman Anderson, who, in reality, are no longer in control given the state and federal investigation. The Trustees, who followed Hebets and Wallis over the cliff, along with those who failed to act once problems were exposed should be considered complicit. In fairness to some Trustees, BCHF officers, often with the knowledge of the chairman of the board of trustees, purposely hid or resisted providing information concerned trustees needed or requested.

Trustees, not the CEO, have the ultimate legal responsibility for the non-profit. Hiring a CEO, who is ethical, competent, and committed to the mission of providing health services to the underserved population, comes within the jurisdiction of the Trustees. Firing a CEO, who is not capable, unethical, or more interested in making money that health care, is also the responsibility of trustees. As the investigation clearly shows, they failed to meet their responsibilities in the past, and seem equally paralyzed in the present.

While not a legal offense, the hiring of inexperienced and inept people to run BCHF guaranteed dependence on Hebets’ and Wallis’ inherently flawed leadership; it ensured they lacked the ability to question practices, or defend and initiate sound healthcare practices dictated by target populations and rapid growth of the foundation. At the same time, Hebets’ practice of controlling trustee appointments that participated in, or were willing to close their eyes to illegal practices, was bound to not end well. Anderson, likewise, has done a brilliant job of stacking the Trustees with Riverside friends and allies, just as Hebets recruited friends and allies, willing to rubber stamp his unlawful operations.

When a clinic does not have any medical personnel during the pandemic, as happened at the Borrego Springs clinic with the firing of key personnel and unexplained absence of the doctor, someone is not doing their job. And when the Board of Trustees, which included Borrego Springs representatives, doesn’t speak up about this type of crisis, something is wrong.

Back to the future: What are Dr. Bulloch’s qualifications to be CEO, and how does his background demonstrate he’s going to be the right person for the job in the wake of the damage done by Hebets and Wallis? Anderson, in the press release announcing Dr. Bulloch’s appointment, claims the new interim CEO has more than 10 years of experience working with community health centers, and five years of experience with Borrego Health. “His leadership and strategic direction of Borrego Health’s clinical services has created a reputation for providing quality care to patients throughout Borrego Health’s service territories.”

“Dr. Bulloch is well-respected by colleagues and peers, in addition to those organizations within the communities we serve. As leader of the Borrego Health COVID-19 Task Force, Dr. Bulloch earned the trust of the community during an exceptionally challenging time. After getting to know Dr. Bulloch, and understanding his commitment to our patients, I believe that he is the right person to move us forward at this time.”

First question Borrego, did Dr. Bulloch earn your trust in dealing with the pandemic? And has the reputation of Borrego Springs clinic been enhanced by his appointment, as Anderson states? This leads to the bigger question, which is: Does Dr. Bulloch have the skills and credibility to save the Foundation?

Dr. Bulloch, an obstetrician-gynecologist by training, appears to be a good doctor and willing to take on leadership obligations. In time, he most likely could learn to be a decent Chief Medical Officer for a small organization. Legal problems aside, the size and obligations of the Foundation may be too much for him without administrative or management experience. This is even more true for the position of CEO.

Consider how expert non-profit job recruiters describe the duties and background of a CEO.

While reading, please note that the Foundation’s CEOs completely reversed the order of responsibility, leaving the Board of Trustees out of major decisions.

Under Hebets’ leadership, cutting backroom deals, purchasing clinics, property and client lists, contracts and leasing agreements financially benefitting the recipient at the expense of the Foundation, and other major questionable business decisions without input or knowledge of the full board was the norm. In fact, how to hide things from the non-complicit board members was one of his major dilemmas. One classic example is, initiating a contract with Premier Healthcare Management, even after the broad voted against it.

Dan Anderson, some complimentary homework for you and your Board of Trustees.

CEO Job Description Example One: (partial)

The Executive Director is the key management leader of non-profit. The Executive Director is responsible for overseeing the administration, programs and strategic plan of the organization.

GENERAL RESPONSIBILITIES

1) Board Governance: Works with the Board in order to fulfill the organization’s mission. Responsible for leading the organization in a manner that supports and guides the organization’s mission as defined by the Board of Directors. Responsible for communicating effectively with the Board and providing, in a timely and accurate manner, all information necessary for the Board to function properly and to make informed decisions.

2) Professional Qualifications Needed: A bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting or management preferred or (degree is Healthcare administration for health non-profit) 10 years of non-profit management experience, five or more years senior nonprofit management or supervisory experience Transparent and high integrity leadership. Experience and skill in working with a Board of Directors. High level strategic thinking and planning. Ability to envision and convey the organization’s strategic future to the staff, board, volunteers and funding agencies. Ability to effectively communicate the organization’s mission to donors, volunteers and the overall community. Demonstrated ability to oversee and collaborate with staff. A history of successfully generating new revenue streams and improving financial results.

3) Strategic Management: Unlike a corporate CEO, a nonprofit executive has a smaller role in planning the strategic direction of the organization. Working with the board, which sets the course of the nonprofit, the CEO provides advice on the practicality of the board’s vision and individual wish-list items, based on the CEO’s knowledge of the organization’s budget, resources and staff expertise.

4) Executive Management: The CEO is the liaison between the board of directors and any managers or directors of the nonprofit. This means communicating to the chief financial officer and department heads the goals of the board and developing strategies and tactics to achieve these goals. At large nonprofits, the CEO might be the public face of the organization, delegating management responsibilities to the chief operating officer, CFO, development director and department heads. A nonprofit CEO also often helps with board development, suggesting, recruiting and training volunteer board members.

5) Finance: Because of the public scrutiny of a nonprofit’s finances and the special legal aspects of nonprofit accounting, the CEO takes an active role in the finances of the organization. The CEO is closely involved in the creation of the annual budget and reviews each financial report the organization’s treasurer presents at board meetings. The CEO might be responsible for working with the board to let it know what initiatives the organization can realistically pursue, as well as what needs the organization has that board members can communicate to their donor contacts.

6) Compliance and Best Practices: The CEO must see that the organization is in compliance with all laws and regulations. Create systems to monitor these. Even beyond legal compliance, ensure the organization is meeting the highest standards possible for the industry and region. The CEO must understand the legal frameworks of creating and running a nonprofit. There are federal rules to follow from the IRS and elsewhere. There are also rules in the states where the organization is operating in or are incorporated in (if they are different), and there may be local rules as well.

7) Human Resources: Boards of directors’ hire, direct and terminate their CEOs, while CEOs usually have direct responsibility for all other human resources duties. The CEO might need approval to hire high-level employees at large nonprofits, or approval for all employee and contractor decisions.

8) Day-to-Day Management: Unless a nonprofit is run by a board that micromanages its CEO, the CEO oversees the day-to-day operations of the organization once the board approves annual plans, budgets and other macro strategies. The CEO might need to get a second signature on checks or send all checks to the treasurer for review, approval and signature. Similar to a for-profit CEO, a nonprofit CEO provides “how-to” business management expertise, while the board of directors provides “what to do” guidance.

Can Dr. Bulloch break bad habits and illicit practices imprinted on officers and managers by Hebets and Wallis? Does he have the skills to lead the board, or, like other board chairmen under Hebets, will he be the tool of the chairman of the board? Given the prerequisites for hiring a CEO, an employment recruiter would have to say that Dr. Bulloch falls short of the administrative experience and skills needed to be CEO.

Next question: How much is CEO Bulloch being paid? Hebets, as CEO, and his wife made combined salaries of nearly $1 million annually. That does not include benefits. Hebets is said to have five corvettes at one time. Nice perks. Wallis’ most recent salary was $560,000, plus business allowances and benefits. The last two Chief Medical Officers – Dr. Ratniewski and Dr. Ghafari – earned salaries in the $600,000 plus range. BCHF had an illegal practice of overpaying officers and providing questionable perks. Would it be a surprise to learn Bruce Hebets brother was in charge of benefits for Borrego Health? Hebets made out the best, earning $1.8 million for working 40 hours a week in 2018-2019. Only problem was, he died halfway into the work year.

Note to Dan Anderson and BCHF Trustees: The average chief executive officer (CEO), non-profit organization salary in the United States is $185,459 as of October 28, 2020. But the salary range typically falls between $142,997 and $230,584. Salary ranges vary widely depending on many important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, and number of years in the profession. Neither Wallis or Hebets had any experience or credentials in health care or administration. At least, Dr. Bulloch has a medical degree.

No one can predict how the investigation will change the chain of command and personnel at BCHF. But it’s a good bet, things will change, not just for the officers, but, most likely, the board of trustees. Given the fact that the current Chairman of the Board, Dan Anderson has a few conflicts of interest in his file, he may not be naming the next CEO. What is known about Anderson is that he leases office space to three BCHF clinics at a very lucrative rate of $750,00 annually. He owns a corporation chartered as the Riverside Community Health Foundation (RCHF). However, unlike Borrego Health, he doesn’t provide services. Rather, Anderson is into healthcare investing, with two offshore bank accounts.

Two of his handpicked trustees are conflicted. One received a large grant from RCHF and another sits on Anderson’s RCHF Board of Trustees. In the meantime, Anderson has been driving out, or removing Borrego Springs representatives from the board. Many have speculated that Anderson planned to move BCHF to Riverside and, perhaps, integrate its federal and state non-profit status into his foundation, for his own purposes. He has often made his dislike of Borrego Springs quite clear to other board members.

So, what will happen to Borrego’s clinic now that the Hebets’ house of cards has fallen. Time will tell, but there are opportunities in the offering. Next: the politicians that fed from Hebets hand and gifted him in return. Stay tuned.

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