Fired hospital executives file suit against Tri-City
By Keith Darcé
Union-Tribune Staff Writer
July 21, 2009
OCEANSIDE — A group of former Tri-City Medical Center executives has
sued the public health district that operates the hospital and four of its
board members for more than $7 million, claiming the administrators were
wrongly fired and defamed.
The lawsuit, filed last week in Vista Superior Court, is the latest salvo in a
battle that started Dec. 18 when a newly elected majority of the Tri-City
Healthcare District placed nine administrators on leave and launched an
investigation into hospital finances and operations.
An attorney who represents one of the board members named in the suit
said the allegations are politically motivated and have no legal foundation.
The lawyer representing the district and other board members had not fully
reviewed the suit and wasn't able to comment on it, said Tri-City spokesman
The board in late April fired eight of the administrators and reached a
termination settlement with former chief executive Arthur Gonzalez, who
received a severance with a potential value of more than $1 million.
The other executives received no severance pay; board members said
those executives were fired for reasons allowed under their employment
The lawsuit names seven plaintiffs: Allen Coleman, former vice president of
business and development; Robert Wardwell, former vice president and
chief financial officer; Doreen Sanderson, vice president of human
relations; Suellyn Ellerbe, vice president, chief operating officer and chief
nurse executive; Terry Howell, vice president of performance improvement;
Ondrea Labella, director of patient accounting; and Daniel Groszkruger,
director of legal services.
The suit targets the district and the four board members who made up the
new voting majority that orchestrated the dismissals: Kathleen Sterling,
RoseMarie Reno, Charlene Anderson and George Coulter. Larry Anderson,
the district's current administrator, also is listed as a defendant.
The suit claims that the firings violated several state laws protecting
employees from wrongful termination and guaranteeing due process. It also
accuses board members of defaming the fired executives in comments
made concerning the controversy.
San Diego attorney Tom Tosdal, who represents Sterling, said his client
and the other board members are being targeted because critics perceive
them as being more friendly to unions representing hospital workers.
All four of the board members received campaign contributions from the
unions during their election campaigns last fall.
“I think this is more of a continuation of the labor union battles,” Tosdal said.
04/15/08 09:00AM N-04
CV Settlement Conf
02/01/08 01:30PM N-28 CV
Orfield, Michael B.
|For updates, see
Attorney Thomas Tosdal
Thomas L. Tosdal
Tosdal, Smith, Steiner & Wax
600 B Street, Suite 2100
San Diego, CA 92101-4508
02/29/08 11:00AM C-70 CV Bloom, Jay
M. Demurrer / Moti
Partners of Thomas Tosdal
Fern M. Steiner
Fern Steiner was paid
$20,000 by California
Teachers Association to
represent a San Diego
teacher in an Office of
case, but she quit the case
just before the scheduled
hearing. Then CTA paid
$40,000 for another lawyer
(who was not chosen by
CTA obviously doesn't mind
throwing around money,
and it doesn't mind paying
lawyers from outside it's
stable of favorites. But it
keeps its purse strings
tightly closed when there's
a chance that a case will
expose wrongdoing by
CTA. In Maura Larkins'
case, CTA refused to pay a
dime for a lawyer outside of
its usual stable. The real
reason? CTA could count
on Marianne Reinhold to
sabotage her client on
CTA's behalf, but it was
afraid that another lawyer
might actually obey the law
ethics of lawyers.
Ms. Steiner and the Water
REGION: Judge nixes $900M fire settlement
SDG&E says claims over $1.1B could lead to rate hikes
By TERI FIGUEROA
North County Times
May 7, 2009
SAN DIEGO ---- A proposed $900 million settlement between insurance
companies and the power utility blamed for causing massive wildfires in
2007 got a thumbs down Thursday from a trial judge, although he said all
sides should keep talking.
Attorneys for individual homeowners said the rejection staved off a potential
minefield for their clients, because the proposal would have prevented their
clients from recouping all of their losses in the wildfires.
Superior Court Judge Richard Strauss turned down the proposed
settlement between the insurers and San Diego Gas & Electric Co., saying
that what they wanted him to do was resolve a contested legal matter using
rules that govern mundane procedural issues.
Down the road, the outcome of the lawsuits may have a very real effect on
customers. SDG&E officials have said ---- and the utility's attorneys told the
judge Thursday ---- that rates may go up if the company has to dip in
operating costs or shareholder money to pay off fire-related claims.
After the hearing in a San Diego courtroom, SDG&E spokeswoman
Stephanie Donovan said it is "way too early for anybody to say how much
rates would be going up or if rates would be going up."
She said the utility wants to keep rates low, and that settling the suits would
be "in the best interest of all."
SDG&E has a $1.1 billion pot of insurance money to cover claims related to
the wildfires. Any settlements beyond that amount have the potential to fall
on the backs of ratepayers through price hikes.
Claims from the insurance companies alone ---- which are trying to recoup
what they have paid out to victims --- total $1.5 billion. Under the proposed
settlement, the insurers would have accepted $900 million from SDG&E to
recoup their payouts.
Attorneys for the fire victims fought the settlement. Some argued that it
would drain the settlement pot before their clients got their cut, others
argued that proposal would bar homeowners from recovering all of their
losses, and that it would have let SDG&E off the hook.
"We don't care if the insurers settle," said attorney Tom Tosdal, who
represents homeowners and other individual fire victims. "They just can't
settle to the detriment of the individuals who they insure."
The insurance companies and the utility, however, argued that the
proposed settlement was simple fairness, that it would have prevented
homeowners from trying to double dip, recouping losses from both the
insurance company and then SDG&E.
The two sides can still make the $900 million deal, but they would be
gambling that homeowners won't still win large settlements from the utility.
State fire officials have concluded that SDG&E's power lines sparked the
Witch Creek, Guejito and Rice Canyon fires in late October 2007. SDG&E
has said fierce Santa Ana winds were to blame.
37-2008-00093081-CU-NP-CTL San Diego Civil
10/03/2008 IN RE: 2007 WILDFIRE INDIVIDUAL LITIGATION - RICE
CANYON FIRE SAN DIEGO GAS AND ELECTRIC COMPANY
01/07/11 09:00AM C-75 CV Strauss, Richard E. L. Ex Parte
37-2008-00093081-CU-NP-CTL P)Ai Chau Do Thomas