By Dennis L. Taylor, The Salinas Californian
SALINAS, CA – July 28, 2014 – Overwhelmingly, the dozen or so speakers addressing the board voiced support for O’Keefe as the interim CEO.
“Kelly O’Keefe is well prepared and ready and he has the support of the staff and the community,” Central Labor Council Director Cesar Lara told supervisors.
After listening to one speaker after another describe O’Keefe as the right person for the job, the board convened into closed session for more than an hour. When they came out, they announced they had decided to name O’Keefe the interim CEO.
In an agenda item posted Thursday for Monday’s special meeting, supervisors were set to name as interim chief executive officer and chief operating officer Arnold Schaffer and Edward Matthews, respectively, who were being placed by San Francisco consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal.
It’s clear the board has been working with Alvarez & Marsal for weeks to have a contract with Schaffer and Matthews in place for board approval Monday. There were no other choices listed on the agenda. That is what’s rankling the coalition.
Many speakers wanted to know why the board deliberations were being held in secret. Vito Lara, the senior magnetic resonance imaging technologist expressed shock that Weis left so abruptly, particularly when he “held the hospital in the black these past years.”
“Why is [deliberation] being held in private,” Vito Lara asked the board. “Please explain this to us.”
The board never did, but they received the message from the community loud and clear.
“You are ready to pay $125,000 a month [to consultants] without public engagement,” said Carlos Ramos, president of the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens. “This is a disenfranchisement of our community. You need to be in an engagement mode.”
Mary Claypool, the president of the local chapter of the National Association of Advancement of Colored People, told supervisors her organization was impressed with Weis, and she reminded the board of the mission of Natividad.
“The people we serve are those with the greatest need and the ones with little voice,” she said. “Use us to conduct outreach and get input from the community.”
O’Keefe serves on the board of trustees of NMC, and is the executive director of the Monterey County Medical Society. He has over 30 years of experience in academics and healthcare, including community medical practice, hospital and healthcare administration.
He has practiced pathology at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, fulfilled both medical staff and physician executive roles at the Dominican Hospital, served as Chief Medical Officer of the Monterey Bay Region of Catholic Healthcare West, and Medical Director of Community Health Plan, a nonprofit community healthcare services organization.
O’Keefe received his Bachelor of Science degree from Washington State University, a Doctorate of Philosophy in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Illinois, and a Medical Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Medicine.