Sierra Sun editorial: Lack of communication atop Tahoe Forest Hospital District
TRUCKEE, Calif. — As the Tahoe Forest Hospital District Board of Directors begins searching for a new leader, we at the Sierra Sun would like to offer some advice: Choose someone who has a strong background in public relations.
Over the past several months, we’ve covered stories surrounding the job performance of former Tahoe Forest CEO Bob Schapper, as well as the board’s investigation into the matter and whether or not the Nevada County DA would conduct his own probe.
With that, we’ve covered reaction from residents, doctors, officials and hospital employees. Some of the comments we’ve published have praised Schapper for his hard work and dedication, while others painted a picture of criticism surrounding a public employee who they feel acted unethically.
It’s your classic tale of two sides to a story, in terms of public opinion. And while the jury may still be out for some on whether Schapper acted appropriately during his tenure, one thing is for certain — throughout our coverage, and that of other media, one voice was blatantly missing from the discussion: Schapper’s.
This Monday, we learned from sources that Tahoe Forest Interim CEO Ginny Razo had accepted a job out of state and was resigning her post as of May 1.
We acted quickly to publish the news online that same day, we attended Tuesday’s board meeting, and we made follow-up calls and emails Wednesday to get, as Paul Harvey famously said, “the rest of the story.”
What eventually transpired is the story you saw published Thursday morning. And herein lies our issue — one voice is blatantly missing from the discussion: Razo’s.
When we attempted to contact Razo this week to comment on a story about her departure — especially considering she had comments published Tuesday in the Curry Coastal Pilot newspaper — we were contacted by Paige Nebeker Thomason, the hospital’s director of marketing and communications, who informed us she was the point of contact.
Further, it behooves us to let community members know we made countless attempts to contact Schapper during the tail-end of his tenure. Every time (outside of one instance in which we emailed questions to Thomason, who then sent us a half-filled response back that she said was from Schapper), either our calls or emails weren’t returned, or Thomason would inform us that Schapper would not be making any comments.
Even for a public agency, we understand that Tahoe Forest Hospital District is protected by both California law and that of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and with that, some information is simply not made public.
However, we feel it is inappropriate for top public employees to not comment to the media on issues that impact the taxpayers — taxpayers who elect board members responsible for filling the CEO position in the first place.
When something is awry, or there is an emergency, or allegations of corruption are levied, the people deserve to hear from the voice at the top — even if that person is in the crosshairs. To instead be communicated with via a marketing team only adds to the perception of some that something is fishy within the hospital district.
Consider this example: What kind of reaction would the American public have if Bill Clinton’s press secretary had uttered the words, “Bill did not have sexual relations with that woman,” regarding Monica Lewinsky?
Sure, the correlation between alleged infidelity and alleged conflicts of interest may be stretched. But it’s the principle of the matter that’s the crux of the issue here — not to mention the fact Clinton only made an annual salary of $200,000 during his tenure, whereas Schapper made more than $400,000 by the end of his.
Considering all this, we urge the hospital board to hire the best leader it can. But please, make sure he or she understands the importance of effective public communication.
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