Palomar Health in Escondido on Oct. 25, 2022.
Palomar Health in Escondido on Oct. 25, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

The executive staff and senior leadership at Palomar Health is facing some backlash for making campaign contributions to certain candidates of the upcoming board elections. Also making sizable contributions to the same candidates is the founder of Palomar Health’s new medical group, Emergent Medical Associates (EMA).

Last year, the hospital system was widely criticized for a contracting change that ended a decades-long partnership with a medical group called Vituity. It was replaced by a different medical group called Emergent Medical Associates (EMA) and its subsidiary, Benchmark.

The decision, which was approved by a board majority, resulted in weeks of protests by Palomar Health’s doctors, who warned that the new group would be detrimental to Palomar’s quality of care.

Those doctors may have been right, and as elections near, many are depending on a new board to turn things around.

Now, though, campaign contributions from Palomar’s top staff members, as well as from the founder of EMA, show that Palomar Health’s leaders may be specifically supporting board candidates that approve of the contracting change.

Palomar Health is a public healthcare district that is governed by a board of directors. On Nov. 8, voters will elect board members for four open seats on the district’s board.

Read the full story here. 

Ex-Real Estate Adviser Seeks Appeal of Ruling that 101 Ash Trials Should Proceed

101 Ash St. / File photo by Adriana Heldiz

Ex-city real estate adviser Jason Hughes is asking the state Court of Appeal to overturn two recent Superior Court rulings allowing the city’s conflict-of-interest cases against him to proceed.

City Hall was rocked last year by the public revelation that the city’s 101 Ash and Civic Center Plaza landlord paid Hughes, who in 2013 volunteered to advise on city real estate issues, $9.4 million for his work on the leases.

Attorneys for the city have argued the city only learned of the payments to Hughes amid litigation last year and that they have a strong conflict-of-interest case against him. Hughes’ attorneys have argued Hughes – who did not have a formal contract with the city – was not covered by state conflict-of-interest law, Government Code Section 1090. They also argued a four-year statute of limitations had lapsed and noted that Hughes’ statements to multiple city officials about seeking payment put the city on notice and could have triggered further investigation.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor on Oct. 3 ruled that there were “triable issues of material fact” over whether Hughes reasonably believed he wasn’t expected to “subordinate his financial interests to the public’s” and whether the city the city should have been on notice that the leases were influenced by Hughes’ alleged conflict-of-interest.

In two filings last Friday, Hughes’ attorneys argued that Taylor’s ruling was “improperly based on speculation and conjecture,” that the statute of limitations should apply and that Taylor “engaged in an unprecedented extension of Government Code section 1090 to ensnare Hughes in a way that has never been sanctioned before” since he was an adviser without a contract.

The Court of Appeal responded late Thursday with requests for the city to informally respond to Hughes’ filings by Nov. 7. It’s unclear what might come next.

An attorney for Hughes declined to comment on the attempted appeals and a spokeswoman for City Attorney Mara Elliott’s office said it will “respond through the court.”

The cases are for now set to go to trial in January.

Council President Lays Out Vision for Increased Tenant Protections

San Diego City Council members during a meeting for Informational Update on Civic Center Revitalization Project. (District 3.) in downtown on Oct. 17, 2022.
San Diego City Councilmembers during a meeting on Oct. 17, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera is calling for a Monday City Council discussion about a series of potential new tenant protections.

Elo-Rivera this week laid out a framework of changes he’d like to see to the city’s 2004 Tenants’ Right to Know Ordinance including relocation assistance for no-fault evictions, increased opportunities to address issues before evictions and immediate protections for tenants who now aren’t covered by the policy until they have lived in a rental for two years.

Elo-Rivera said his proposals will be fodder for City Council discussion and community input at Monday’s meeting. His next steps will be dictated by how the discussion goes. For now, Elo-Rivera plans to draft a tenant protection ordinance after receiving feedback and direction from his Council colleagues.

Read more about the proposal here. 

San Diego Is Closer Than It’s Ever Been to Getting an MLS Team

A new ownership group is close to finalizing a deal that would deliver San Diego a team in Major League Soccer, the Union-Tribune reported Thursday, based on accounts of multiple unnamed sources.

The group, led by the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation and Mohamed Mansour, an Egyption billionaire, plans to submit its expansion bid to the league’s Board of Governors next month. If it’s successful, it would conclude a years long off-again-on-again flirtation between San Diego and the country’s top soccer league, including the unsuccessful attempt by a previous ownership group to build a stadium for a team in Mission Valley, where San Diego State instead won voter approval for its own stadium and adjacent development.

The MLS team would still need to strike an agreement with SDSU to play at Snapdragon Stadium, and the Union-Tribune reported the stadium requires upgrades to house an MLS team, but there’s a logical connection between the new ownership group and the university. Adam Day is the chief administrative officer of Sycuan; he’s also a member of the Cal State University board of trustees, and was the chairman of the board from 2018 through 2020.

The San Diego Wave already play in the stadium, where they’ve been setting National Women’s Soccer League attendance records

Elsewhere around the Empire

  • San Diego Magazine reports on the rise of backyard skate ramps, which for years remained a hurdle thanks in part to finicky neighbors and draconian HOA regulations. In other arts and culture news, an opera about Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera is getting its world premier in San Diego this weekend.
  • The county reported Thursday that it’s in early talks with the state about the possibility of opening a third migrant shelter in the region if there is a need to address an “overflow of migrants.” As of earlier this week, two city homeless shelter providers were temporarily housing nearly 70 asylum-seekers, including at least some who had previously stayed in migrant shelters that limit stays to 30 days.
  • San Diegans struggling to pay their water bills now qualify for up to $2,000 in emergency federal cash. (Union Tribune)
  • A Mexican judge sentenced three men this week for the murder of Tijuana journalist Lourdes Maldonado. The defendants will pay up to $25,000 to Maldonado’s family. The motives for her murder weren’t disclosed during the trial, however. (Union Tribune)
  • Lemon Grove city officials refused to release a taxpayer-funded report on an investigation into a City Council member’s treatment of public employees. (Union Tribune)

The Morning Report was written by Tigist Layne, Lisa Halverstadt, Andrew Keatts and MacKenzie Elmer. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. 

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