His application for a job at the Grossmont health district was rejected
By Steve Schmidt
Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 10:06 p.m.
A longtime Grossmont Healthcare District board member announced his departure from the board last week, confident he had a good shot at getting hired for a staff position at the agency.
But after a district watchdog complained about the situation, board member Jim Stieringer of La Mesa was rejected for the job — and now is fighting to stay on the board.
The back-and-forth over Stieringer’s status as a board member put the district in what CEO Barry Jantz called “uncharted territory.”
In a Nov. 5 letter to the board, Stieringer said he was retiring after 18 years as a board member, a part-time post that pays a maximum of $6,000 a year. Instead, he would be applying for a $60,000-a-year job as the district’s projects liaison monitor.
He argued that his education and experience would make him a good candidate for the position, which was created a few years ago but had not been filled.
In an e-mail on Monday to Jantz, Ray Lutz, a citizen activist, said he believed Stieringer’s departure from the board appeared to have been orchestrated to give him an inside track on the projects monitor job.
“This situation smacks of conflict of interest and insider dealing, and frankly, I find it disgusting,” Lutz wrote.
Both Jantz and Stieringer disagreed. Stieringer said he had been reasonably confident he would be considered for the position, but “not because anybody had promised me anything.”
Still, in a closed-door meeting Wednesday morning, called in light of Stieringer’s interest, the board rejected his bid for the job. Jantz said board members were worried that any consideration of Stieringer could spur charges of favoritism.
The rejection prompted Stieringer, 69, to send an e-mail to the board saying he no longer plans to step down.
“My understanding is that the board has neither approved nor disapproved the retirement notice and has not taken action to fill the board position had it become vacant,” wrote Stieringer, a retired contracts manager.
Jantz said it was not immediately clear how the board would respond. He said he has turned to district lawyers for guidance, including whether the board was legally required to accept Stieringer’s departure for it to take effect.
“Technically, the board doesn’t have to accept anything,” Jantz said.
The panel oversees Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, East County’s largest medical complex. Voter have elected Stieringer to the board five times.
His most recent term, if he is allowed to complete it, would end in 2012. He said Wednesday night that he should have clearly stated in his Nov. 5 letter that the retirement was contingent on the assumption that the projects monitor job would be filled soon.
But Wednesday’s closed session, he said, “kind of cut the legs out from under me.”