The Nominating Process for El Paso Children’s Board Appointments

epch-brd-orr1On November 30, 2015, the University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC) issued a press release where it stated that UMC had nominated four individuals to the reconstituted children’s hospital board. They are: Ronald Acton, Miguel Fernandez, Patrick Gordon and Ted Houghton. Additionally, the press release listed: Jaime Barceleau, Gilberto Moreno, Jr., and Lynn Coyle as alternates.

As a result, I was curious to see what kind of vetting the nominees were subjected to before they were nominated. I was also curious to see who had a hand in the appointments and what the process was. I also wanted to know how many applicants were considered. Therefore, I submitted an open records request on December 2, 2015 to the County asking for documents about the process and the applicants.

On Wednesday, December 16, 2015 I received 138 pages of documents, most of them were emails that were responsive to my request. In addition, I received a copy of a letter UMC sent to the Texas Attorney General asking for an opinion on some of the documents that they allege are attorney-client privileged and thus they want to withhold from me.

According to the emails, in the responsive documents, that I received from UMC, the following individuals were considered for the EPCH Board:

1. Ronald “Ron” Farris Acton, employed by Stewart Holdings and the J.O. and Marlene Stewart Jr. Foundation [appointed]
2. Jaime Barceleau, CEO of Paso del Norte Children’s Development Center [alternate]
3. Lynn Coyle, attorney [alternate]
4. John W. (“Jay”) Dunbar, CPA employed by Schmid, Broaddus, Nugent, Gano PC.
5. Miguel Fernandez, businessman, Transtelco [appointed]
6. Patrick Gordon, attorney [appointed]
7. Alfonso C. Ibarra, registered nurse at UMC
8. Craig D. Johnson, UMC, Neighborhood Healthcare Centers, Nurse Manager
9. Patrick D. McGail, Vice President and General Manager of NewsBank, Inc.
10. Gilberto “Gilbert” Moreno, consultant [alternate]
11. George G. Sainz, EPCH 501 Medical Group
12. Edward C. “Ted” Houghton IV, Houghton Financial Services [appointed]
13. Michael C. Wendt, retired, formerly owner of Laser Tech, Inc.

However, the “EPCH Nominating Committee Summary Sheet” included an additional seven names. These were:

1. Richard Bonart
2. Gary M. Borsch
3. Stephanie Karr Dodson
4. Jacob S. Heydemann
5. Cindi H. Nance
6. Joe D. Wardy
7. Joyce Wilson

It is unclear if these individuals were on the list because they submitted applications or because the nominating committee were considering them.

The same document, the “EPCH Nominating Committee Summary” has two additional columns next to each name. They are “Short List” and “Final.”

Under the “Short List” designation, the following names had a “Y” next to their names. They were:

1. Ronald F. Acton
2. Jaime Barceleau
3. John W. Dunbar
4. Lynn Cole
5. Miguel Fernandez
6. Ted Houghton
7. Gilbert Moreno, Jr.
8. Cindy H. Nance
9. Michael C. Wendt

Under the “Final” column, the following name with different designations were listed:

1. Ronald F. Acton, “Yes”
2. Jaime Barceleau, “Possible”
3. Lynn Coyle, “Yes”
4. Miguel Fernandez, “Possible”
5. Jacob S. Heydemann, “EPCH MEC nominee”
6. Gilbert Moreno, Jr., “Possible”
7. Ted Houghton, “Yes”

That document is dated December 2, 2015. It is unclear who made the designations for each individual.

You might notice that Patrick Gordon isn’t on the “short list” or the “final” list.

Another document, the “Candidates – EPCH Board Member Applicants, Monday, November 23, 2015, 3:00 p. m., 8 Floor UMC – CEO Conference Room” lists one additional name: Bryan J. Crowe, City of El Paso, Managing Director.

One of the items that I requested from UMC were any ranking sheets used to rank the candidates.

The “Candidates – EPCH Board Member Applicants, Monday, November 23, 2015, 3:00 p. m., 8 Floor UMC – CEO Conference Room” appears to be such a ranking sheet because it lists a column next to each of the names titled, “Please select your top 5 candidates & rank them in order with 1 being your first choice.”

However, the copy that I received did not have any ranking information, although a second version had eight names marked as if they were crossed off the list. The names that seem to have been crossed off were:

1. Richard C. Bonart
2. Bryan J. Crowe
3. John W. Dunbar
4. Alfonso C. Ibarra
5. Craig D. Johnson
6. Patrick D. McGrail
7. Gilberto Moreno
8. Cindy H. Nance
9. Jorge G. Sainz

UMC requested an opinion from the Texas Attorney General about withholding some documents because they were attorney privileged. At this point I do know if the completed ranking sheets are part of the documents they are asking to withhold.

Based on the open records responsive documents that I received, I created a timeline of events. Three names stood out for me in the timeline that I pieced together.

The first name is Veronica Escobar which appears to have had a direct hand in ensuring that Ted Houghton was appointed to the board. Escobar asked Edward Sosa if UMC had Ted Houghton’s “bio.”

The other name that stood out for me is Jim Valenti.

As you likely know, one of the conditions of the settlement agreement between the children’s hospital and UMC is that Jim Valenti was not to have anything to do with the appointment of a CEO for the children’s hospital. Keep in mind that the children’s reconstituted board will be the one to select the new CEO. This means that whoever influenced the appointment of board members, likely has some measure of influence over the appointee.

As you look at the timeline, you will notice that Miguel Fernandez asked Jim Valenti about serving on the children’s board. On November 27, 2015, Tracy Yellen started to shepherd Miguel Fernandez through the process of submitting his application. The other name that stood out for me is Miguel Fernandez.

Fernandez specifically asked Jim Valenti about serving on the board. In addition, Miguel Fernandez ensured that Patrick R. Gordon also submitted the appropriate documents to the nominating committee. As you will notice in the timeline of events, Patrick Gordon was added to the list to be considered at the last moment. Both Patrick Gordon and Miguel Fernandez were appointed to the board by UMC. That is 50% of the votes for UMC.

In one email exchange between Nick Gonzalez and Miguel Fernandez, that was copied to others in the nominating committee, Gonzalez specifically asked Fernandez if he “would resign from” the UMC board.

As of today, it does not appear the Fernandez has resigned from the UMC board.

Take a look at the timeline of events I put together to understand how the process to appoint the new children’s board was conducted and ask yourself, who’s political agenda are they serving? The taxpayers’ welfare or a public policy agenda focused on taxing you.

Timeline of Events (current to oldest date)

November 30, 2015 at 2:34pm; Tracy Yellen forwarded an email from Miguel Fernandez to Edward Sosa that included the application forms for the EPCH board.

November 30, 2015 at 1:29pm; according to an email from Betsy Castillo to Joy Martinez, Jim Volk, M Narvaez, Nick Gonzalez, Steve DeGroat, Tracy Yellen and copied to Edward Sosa, a UMC Special Board of Managers meeting was scheduled to discuss “candidates being considered for the CH board.” The individuals that were on the list were: Ron Acton, Jaime Barceleau, Lynn Coyle, Ted Houghton and Gilbert Moreno. Pat Gordon was added to the list as per an email from Betsy Castillo to the list at 1:33pm.

November 30, 2015 at 8:53am; Miguel Fernandez sent an email to Tracy Yellen with his biography and the biography for “Pat,” Pat is Patrick R. Gordon. Gordon is an attorney with Gordon Davis Johnson & Shane. Fernandez wrote; “I hope I did not screw this up.”

November 30, 2015 at 8:51am; Pat Gordon sent an email to Tracy Yellen with his EPCH application. Yellen forwarded the email to Edward Sosa, Jim Volk and Nick Gonzalez, President of Cathedral High School.

November 30, 2015 at 8:51am; Veronica Escobar sent an email to Edward Sosa asking if UMC had the “bio” for Ted Houghton. Sosa replied at 9:27am that they had the “bio.”

November 30, 2015 at 8:09am, Tracy Yellen sent an email to Edward Sosa with Ted Houghton’s biography attached.

November 29, 2015 at 10:36pm; Miguel Fernandez sent an email to Patrick Gordon with a link to the online application for the EPCH board.

November 27, 2015 at 6:45pm; Tracy Yellen sent an email to Miguel Fernandez with a link to the application for the EPCH board with reference to “Pat.”

November 24, 2015 at 11:31am; Nick Gonzalez (Cathedral) sent an email to Miguel Fernandez. In the email, Gonzalez, lists Jim Volk, Tracy Yellen, David Stout and Nick Gonzalez as being members of the “EPCH nominations committee.” Gonzalez asks Fernandez if he “would be willing to serve on EPCH” and whether Fernandez would “resign from UMC.” According to the email, Steve DeGroat had Miguel Fernandez “down as someone to get on the EPCH board.” [emphasis mine]

October 8, 2015 at 4:22pm; Miguel Fernandez asked James Valenti about serving on EPCH board as per an email sent to Steve DeGroat.

October 8, 2015 at 4:18pm; Betsy Carrillo sent an email to James Valenti telling him that Steve DeGroat wanted to inform Valenti that Dee Margo was also interested in serving on EPCH board.

3 thoughts on “The Nominating Process for El Paso Children’s Board Appointments

  1. Interesting that Fernandez was selected although there are no clear answers about the city to Juarez cable connections without prior approval.

    Also interesting that Wilson is on the list. There are a lot of unanswered questions about the fiasco at the city. Was she asked or did she volunteer? If she was asked, whom asked her ?

    Now, another interesting item is that although the judge is always blaming the board for the hospital fiasco and claiming county had nothing to do with the fiasco yet a recommendation for a board member was made by the judge.

    Why haven’t we been told which two board members misled the Feds about the (wink) rent to qualify for fed funding? Now we’re told that “little” item is going to cost the county 20 million dollars. Why hasn’t anyone been indicted, after all they did voluntarily confess?

    Once again, either we have the dumbest officials in the U.S. or the most shadiest. Either one is grounds for removal or not elected/appointed/ re-elected.

  2. Is there any governing law as to how the vetting process is to proceed? Qualifications? If not, then nothing illegal has been done. Mostly, that list appears to be prominent successful citizens who are willing to put in what will be a lot of thankless time in this role.

    I’m glad Wilson isn’t on the short list. I’m also sure that Paul and Woody, both of whom are playing in the local healthcare market, have made their opinions known. But that isn’t illegal, especially when you’ve donated $50MM for a medical school, plus a nursing school and are building a new west side hospital on your nickel.

    So how would Martin propose to nominate and vet EPCH board appointees? Maybe we could let the voters select them on a ballot? You might get, maybe, 50 to turn out.

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