As you probably know, on October 5, 2015, Jim Valenti tendered his resignation as the CEO of the University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC.) The news media has insinuated that Valenti’s resignation was the result of a pending agreement between UMC and the El Paso Children’s Hospital to end children’s bankruptcy. Although I had reported to you (link) that James DeGroat, in an August 4, 2015 deposition, stated that it was unlikely that UMC would extend Valenti’s contract, it wasn’t until the resignation letter that we knew for sure that Valenti was out.
In the same blog post, I shared with you how Jim Valenti, in his own deposition on July 2, 2015, had stated that he wanted to have his contract extended for another term by the UMC board.
However, in his October 5 letter, Valenti wrote that he “would not seek an extension” of his current contract. It all seems cut-and-dry, except that it is El Paso that I am writing about and everything is smoke-and-mirrors.
Five days after the resignation letter, an unknown group of individuals put together a website and an online petition to the county commissioners to keep Jim Valenti at the helm of UMC.
The domain name, vivavalenti.com, was registered on October 10, 2015. A website was created and launched a few days later. An online petition titled “University Medical Center Needs James Valenti” asking for 5,000 signatures was started on October 9, 2015.
Yesterday, the petition had six signatures, the first one from a “Jelena Skipina” from Bosnia and Herzegovina, likely a subcontractor hired by the advertising agency that created the marketing scheme, or a spammer.
A Facebook page was also created on October 9. A Twitter account was created on October 12.
The petition was created by the “Committee to Keep James Valenti.” There is no committee with that name registered at the Texas Ethics Commission or at the county’s lobbyist list.
The domain name – vivavalenti.com was registered by Ken Binkley of the Las Cruces advertising agency Wilson Binkley Advertising & Marketing. David Wilson is a partner in the advertising agency. The Wilson Binkley Advertising agency evolved from Borman Advertising, the advertising arm of the Borman Motor Company in 1994 when the car dealer’s advertising department began to take on clients of their own. Ken Binkley is also a partner in the agency and like Wilson, they both worked at Borman when the advertising agency was spun off.
As you can tell by all of the media channels – the website, the Facebook and Twitter pages that have been created, there has been a significant amount of public relations expertise and expense that is being spent to keep Jim Valenti at the helm of UMC.
There are two obvious questions, who is behind the Committee to Keep James Valenti and what is Valenti’s role in the media campaign. An advertising agency like Wilson Binkley does not work for free. Who is paying the advertising agency and does it involve public funds is a question that the taxpayers would likely want an answer to.
I submitted an email request yesterday to the advertising agency asking who was the contact person for the committee that is ostensibly paying the agency fees.
I also submitted a request to UMC asking if they were aware of the effort to keep James Valenti at UMC.
Ryan Mielke, Director of Public Affairs for UMC, responded as follows.
“Yes, one of the staff here mentioned it to me today,” in response to whether he was aware of the website. In response to whether UMC had any involvement, Mielke responded, “no, UMC, nor my office, nor me or anyone from my office had any knowledge or participation in the creation of the site.”
As of the deadline for my blog post, I have not received an answer to my queries from the advertising agency. If I receive any answer from them to the questions that the taxpayers are likely asking, I will post them on my blog.
For now, keep an eye on this, as it appears to be a concerted effort to keep Valenti on the taxpayers’ payroll. Remember, it’s for the children.