Sierra Sun should have reported more on Tahoe Forest salary
November 11, 2014
Regarding the Friday, Nov. 7, 2014, report, "Show me the money," on the highest paid public employees in our district, the Sierra Sun, in effect, not only excuses Tahoe Forest Hospital District CEO Robert Schapper for being a grossly high-paid outlier, it also ignores the $117,440 additional compensation (in the form of a bonus) that is shown on the State Controller website.
He seems to get a bonus every year, so it's not really a bonus, but just a way of concealing additional salary authorized by the board. Your article should properly disclose this as well as the fact that Schapper has received these large bonuses repeatedly.
It smells bad (seriously stinks in fact) that other TFH employees not only don't receive bonuses, but are constantly told how perilous the district's finances are; and to limit their overtime and cut costs wherever possible. To give our not-so-profitable, little public hospital CEO a whopping large bonus under these circumstances of marginal profitability is unconscionable.
It also seems odd that the Sun would go to the trouble to round up all those years of salary information for all those positions and include some pretty strongly worded sections on the hospital situation, but then basically give Schapper and the TFH Board a pass on his grossly obese salary and the similarly overweight board-authorized annual bonuses.
The comparison of base salary to base salary is fine, but you should recognize that very few public employment positions get bonuses because there is concern a bonus could be interpreted as a violation of the prohibition on "gifts of public funds." It is extremely newsworthy when a public employee receives bonuses in the six-figure range, which has been the case with Schapper.
Schapper's salary and bonuses are especially galling when the ongoing message from hospital management to our hospital staff is one of fiscal doom and gloom, year after year. There are a lot of good people sacrificing income to work in our health system while the hospital board allows certain administrators to fertilize their private bank accounts. Good reporting would demand that such facts be included.
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Finally, I would note that there are hundreds of hospital employees and their relatives in our community who rightfully won't go public with their concerns because they wisely fear the reality of administrative retribution.
Some of these frightened, yet truly brave people also wonder that you lay off Schapper for fear of losing all the advertising revenue you get from his administration. Which brings up the unavoidable question: "Why does the only public critical access hospital in an isolated rural community pay to advertise how exceptionally good it is?"
Will the new hospital board bring meaningful, patient-oriented change to our health system? Will our North Tahoe residents continue to be proactive toward this end?
Lawrence A. Danto, MD, has been a North Tahoe resident since 1978, and was a Tahoe Forest Hospital staff member from 2003-08.