California hospital chair resigns amid alleged $23M exec overpayment

The chair of Bakersfield, Calif.-based Kern County Hospital Authority's board of governors has resigned after nearly a decade of service. 

A spokesperson for Kern Medical — the hospital authority's brand name — confirmed that Russell Bigler has stepped down from the role. He was an original member of the board and has served as its chair since its 2016 inception. 

Mr. Bigler resigned for health reasons, the spokesperson told Becker's April 16. In a statement released the same day, local union SEIU Local 521 alleged that the reasoning for Mr. Bigler's exit had been concealed from the public. 

Alicia Aleman, a social worker and regional vice president of SEIU Local 521, penned the statement. She wrote that, "[Mr. Bigler's] quiet resignation from the board, without a public reason or letter of resignation provided in meeting minutes, has again left the community with more questions than answers." 

Ms. Aleman said she had submitted an application to fill the vacant seat, and she denounced the board's decision not to agendize a vote during its April 17 meeting. 

"One less voice on the KCHA board at a time when hospital managers are under scrutiny is a disservice to Kern County taxpayers and vulnerable patients who depend on this safety net hospital," Ms. Aleman wrote. "Even after the events in the news, you would think the safety net hospital would do everything they can to bolster public trust in oversight of the healthcare system."

The news comes less than two months after SEIU Local 521 filed a complaint with the state Fair Political Practices Commission, alleging Kern County Hospital Authority had overpaid top executives approximately $23 million over the course of four years. The complaint names Alton Scott Thygerson, the hospital authority's current CEO; Andrew Cantu, its current CFO; and Russell Judd, its former CEO from 2016 to 2021. The executives also helmed two private consulting firms that contracted with the hospital. 

The complaint alleges payments to the consulting firms exceeded contractual amounts by between 40% and 147%, accumulating to tens of millions in unauthorized compensation. It also alleges that the board of governors — chaired by Mr. Bigler — made retroactive amendments and payment approvals under the CEO and CFO's influence.  

Becker's inquired about the board's timeline for determining a replacement for Mr. Bigler. Kern Medical's spokesperson replied that "the board is in the process of recommending a qualified candidate" for appointment by the county's board of supervisors.

Mr. Bigler did not return Becker's request for comment via email.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars