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October 25, 2007

Valley hospital chief could get record fine

Posted by David Postman at 7:41 AM

The Public Disclosure Commission today will consider an agreement with two Valley Medical Center officials that would mean the largest out-of-court settlement in state history. As Sonia Krishnan reports this morning in the Times:

Rich Roodman, president and chief executive officer of the Renton hospital, and Barbara Mitchell, administrator of organizational development, have admitted to misspending nearly $500,000 in public money to pass a tax levy and annexation proposal. Under state law, public entities cannot use tax dollars to campaign.

"We now understand that we were wrong and made mistakes," Mitchell said Wednesday. "We're now trying to rectify them as best as we can."

I wrote about the public hospital's illegal campaigning in June.

Roodman is taking the big hit. He signed an agreement that calls for a $195,000 fine, with $75,.000 of that suspended if he uses non-public funds to pay the fine and avoids any other violations for four years. He also agrees to repay the hospital district $155,000 for the public money he improperly spent on the campaign.

Mitchell, under a separate agreement, would pay a $500 fine and repay $18,832 in improper campaign expenses. The agreement said her violation was unintentional.

The timing of the PDC meeting could boost the campaigns of two candidates for Public Hospital District No. 1. A five-member commission serves as the board of the medical center.

The illegal campaigning has been a centerpiece of the campaigns by Sue Bowman and Anthony Hemstad who are taking on long-time incumbents. Bowman is running against Gary Kohlwes. Kohlwes is the retired Renton School District superintendent and has been on the hospital commission since 1995.

Hemstad, who has chronicled the hospital's troubles on his campaign Web site,
is running against Commission President Carole Anderson, a real estate property manager. She has been on the commission since 1988.

There is also a new complaint against the hospital. Activist Chris Clifford recently alleged in a PDC complaint that the hospital misspent public money when it sent out a "special edition" brochure with photos of the incumbent board. He says that looks like campaigning on behalf of Kohlwes and Anderson.

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