BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
Former Mountain View Mayor Mike Kasperzak is running for a seat on the El Camino Healthcare District board, which he says has shown a lack of transparency through its turnover of CEOs.
In 2011, the board fired Ken Graham as president and CEO, but didn’t say why. In 2016, the board ousted Graham’s predecessor Tomi Ryba, giving her a $223,673 bonus on the way out and not giving a reason for the firing. The current CEO, Dan Woods, took over last year at a base salary of $850,000.
“I knew that both CEOs were apparently doing a great job. Then there was a special board meeting, and then they’re looking for a new chief executive, and nobody would say anything because of the Brown Act because it was in closed session,” Kasperzak told the Post. “My guess is that there were also things like, ‘I’ll sue for wrongful termination unless you all will agree to a non-disparagement clause.’”
Kasperzak said that he would “argue until I’m blue in the face” that when a public agency agrees not to disclose the reasons for a CEO’s departure, people lose faith in the organization.
“There’s not a lack of transparency on everything, but that is an example that I particularly find troublesome,” Kasperzak added. “Even if it’s like, ‘most CEOs change every five years’ — well, say that.”
Kasperzak, 64, served as mayor in 2012 and stepped down after two terms on City Council last year.
A former civil litigator representing airplane manufacturers, he’s served as chairman of the American Red Cross and on the National Ski Patrol, and chaired a task force on healthcare costs for the National League of Cities.
“It was a really fascinating look into national healthcare issues, and it was formed because public agencies, cities, employ tens of thousands of people across the country and health care costs are a huge issue for local government,” Kasperzak said. “We came up with a bunch of policies that the National League of Cities was using when it lobbied Congress, so that gave me more exposure to health care and the industry in general.”
Medicare for all
Kasperzak said he believes in “Medicare for all” — also known as single-payer — and wants to see El Camino be a leader in the Affordable Care Act and in driving down patient costs.
“It’s a lofty goal. I don’t know how realistic it is,” Kasperzak said, acknowledging that salaries drive up the cost of health care. “You’ve got to pay people what they’re worth, but I’m not certain you have to pay people whatever they want in this get-ahead world.”
Kasperzak added that insurance executives spending “a lot of money” on advertising “doesn’t seem to be an effective use of health care dollars.”
Another issue facing the board is the hospital district’s expansion into Los Gatos, and possibly into South San Jose.
Kasperzak said he supports expanding to have a broader base that would make the organization’s finances more sustainable in the long term.
“Independent hospitals, even though El Camino is doing really well right now… it doesn’t have a big backing like any of the Sutter organizations,” Kasperzak said. “Things could change really quickly.”
Kasperzak said he also wants the district to be large enough that it doesn’t have to lose control and sell to a large for-profit healthcare company.
Kasperzak first ran for the five-member health care board in 1984, when he saw an article in the now-defunct Peninsula Times Tribune that said there were three open seats and no candidates.
He would have been the only Mountain View resident on the board then, as he will be if he wins in November. He ended up losing in 1984 with about 17,000 votes.
Last year, he applied for a two-year appointment when Dennis Chiu retired, but lost that short-term seat to HP attorney Neysa Fligor. Now that Fligor is running for Los Altos City Council, incumbent Gary Kalbach is seeking to finish out the term. Incumbent Peter Fung is also running for re-election.