One thing that has puzzled me for some time now is why does Veronica Escobar continue to protect Jim Valenti. Yes, I am aware that Veronica Escobar was “infuriated” with Jim Valenti about his $120,000 bonus last year, in spite of the layoffs he implemented. However, as critical as she has been of Valenti, Escobar has argued that Jim Valenti must remain in place while the El Paso Children’s Hospital fiasco is resolved. She was quoted by the El Paso Inc. on December 15, 2014 in “UMC board takes no action against CEO gaffes” by David Crowder. In that article, Crowder quoted Veronica Escobar as stating, “The last thing you want to see is a train wreck” referring to the possible firing of Valenti. Escobar added that there may be “short-term pain for long-term gain” referring to the Children’s Hospital coming under UMC’s control.
As most of you know there is much controversy about whether children’s should be merged into UMC, or not.
Some of you are going to argue that Veronica Escobar should not get herself involved in the firing of department heads that are governed by their own boards. Yet, history has proven that Veronica Escobar has no problem demanding that someone be fired. As most of you are aware, on December 5, 2014, Veronica Escobar demanded the resignations of William Hanson and Laura Ponce from the Board of Managers of the El Paso County Hospital District. Neither resigned and they were not reappointed.
In 2011 there was some significant controversy involving the El Paso Health Mental Retardation and the County. Like UMC, the MHMR, which was governed by a nine-member board, was facing serious financial woes and its CEO’s income was being scrutinized. This is very similar to the ongoing issues facing UMC, yet Valenti’s actions have been more egregious.
MHMR’s CEO, Gary Larcenaire was given an employee contract that called for $127,000 if he were terminated or died, by the MHMR board. MHMR had recently lost $2 million in funding.
Veronica Escobar led an effort to have Larcenaire fired as CEO. She did this by pushing the County to dissolve the existing MHMR board. On January 24, 2011, the County Commissioners voted two to one to dissolve the 9-member board and replace it with a 7-member board. Veronica Escobar and Sergio Lewis voted in favor of restructuring the MHMR board. Dan Haggerty voted against the measure. Willie Gandara and Anna Perez were not present for the vote.
Although Gary Larcenaire was not fired by the new board that was constituted, he resigned a few months later, although it appears that he received the controversial bonus.
Clearly, Veronica Escobar has control over an errant board as evidenced by her push to dissolve the MHMR board and replace it with a more palatable one.
Now contrast that with the ongoing debacle of the El Paso Children’s Hospital bankruptcy.
Although we do not know the factual underlining issue that kept the two entities from reaching an agreement prior to the bankruptcy, we can infer from the public record that the likely reason that a settlement was not reached was that UMC wants to takeover children’s.
Veronica Escobar has publicly started that the solution to the Children’s Hospital problem is to bring it under the umbrella of UMC. The El Paso Children’s board and pediatricians have been vocal against being merged into UMC.
Is this the reason Veronica Escobar has refused to call for the firing of Jim Valenti even through the numerous controversies involving Jim Valenti?
I have written many times that Veronica Escobar’s end game with the El Paso Children’s Hospital has been to have direct control over it via UMC. This allows her an ongoing tax increase scapegoat while giving her control over monies that are outside of government transparency.
UMC can take control of Children’s by simply “forgiving” the rent and services monies owed to it without having to make children’s a public entity. They already tried that but apparently, children’s didn’t want to play along.
The more I think about it the more I believe that Jim Valenti is safe as long as he keeps his secrets, secret. Thus, you have a CEO that knows he can say anything he wants because masked in the faux outrage lies the inconvenient truth that he is a useful idiot for the Veronica Escobar agenda.