Tri-City board member sues district for barring her from meetings and votes

RoseMarie Reno, an elected member of the Tri-City Healthcare District board, is suing the agency, saying it has excluded her from certain closed-session meetings and votes that she was entitled to participate in.

The lawsuit, filed Oct. 26 in San Diego County Superior Court, seeks remedies including a court’s declaration of her rights as a board member, an order forcing the board to stop excluding her and damages the court deems proper, according to court records.

Reno is an Oceanside resident and one of seven board members. She has served on the board since 1984, and her current four-year term ends in 2020.

“Director Reno has been provided with altered, redacted documents, denied the ability to be heard on various topics, denied the opportunity to request items be placed on board meeting agendas, denied the ability to participate and vote on various district expenditures and essentially removed from any closed session meeting where Director Reno disagrees” with the board majority and its attorney, Greg Moser, the complaint said.

Moser said the lawsuit’s allegations are false and he trusts the truth will come out as the litigation progresses. He declined to comment further because litigation is ongoing.

Bart Blechschmidt, a Carlsbad attorney representing Reno, said she tried to resolve the situation informally and filed the lawsuit as a last resort.

“She believes that she has an obligation to the people who elected her to be able to be their voice and protect their interests,” Blechschmidt said Wednesday. “When she’s excluded from meetings in which those decisions are being made, she feels that she’s not able to do what they elected her to do.”

The closed-session meetings from which Reno was barred regarded longstanding disputes involving former Tri-City CEO Larry Anderson and a building deal with Medical Acquisition Company, the complaint said.

Reno’s lawsuit said she was excluded from votes that could have stopped or settled the litigation in the dispute with Medical Acquisition Company. Instead, it went to trial and ended with a $19.8-million verdict against the district.

The board excluded Reno based on its opinion that she had a conflict of interest because her grandson had a financial relationship with the company, the complaint said. Reno’s lawsuit says Moser reported her alleged conflict to the state Fair Political Practices Commission, which investigated and cleared her, according to the complaint.

The FPPC closed its investigation in 2015, according to news reports at the time.

Reno’s exclusion from board meetings is not without precedent at the agency.

At a closed-session meeting in April 2011, the board voted to exclude two members — Randy Horton and Kathleen Sterling — from closed-session meetings for alleged release of confidential district information. Reno was chairwoman at the time and voted for the exclusions. A dispute over their exclusion lasted for months.

Blechschmidt, Reno’s attorney, said Wednesday that it was his understanding that the situation is completely different with Reno being excluded.

Background

morgan.cook@sduniontribune.com

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