COMMENTARY: Board of Supervisors willing to discuss assisting Hazel Hawkins

Supervisor Peter Hernandez writes about his view on the board's primary responsibility and explains the protocol to set the agenda.

This commentary was contributed by San Benito County Supervisor Peter Hernandez. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors. BenitoLink invites all community members to share their ideas and opinions. By registering as a BenitoLink user in the top right corner of our home page and agreeing to follow our Terms of Use, you can write counter opinions or share your insights on current issues.


To the residents of San Benito County,

As the chair of the Board of Supervisors, I need to maintain a level of impartiality in order to build unity and help facilitate the conversation of the Board of Supervisors successfully. I first want to put in context what is one of the most important responsibilities of the Board of Supervisors; their fiduciary responsibility to be prudent in consideration of any decisions that will impact the taxpayer dollars the board is responsible for. The common law fiduciary duties stipulate the board must abide by the following principles in their conduct in all matters: duty of care, duty of accountability and duty to maintain public trust.

Hazel Hawkins is a hospital that is very important to our community. We are saddened to see the fiscal issues and constraints the administration, doctors, nurses, and support staff are dealing with. San Benito County is prepared to engage in talks to see what can be done to assist this vital asset to stay open for many years to come. That is why it is in the best interest of the Board of Supervisors and our dear community to be in constant communication and a process of discussion and education on what the dire needs are of our hospital.

My hope is to clarify the request made by Supervisor Gonzales to put this item on the Dec. 13 agenda. There is a typical process which allows items to be fully studied before they are brought before the board that allows the board to be fully informed about agenda items, including potential consequences. Our current process requires one board member to get the support of another board member to place an item on the agenda. It is also the duty of the chair of the Board of Supervisors with the CAO [county administrative officer] to oversee the planning of the agenda.

The planning of the agenda is a month-long process. Many things need to be considered in the context of organizing, planning and placing an item on the agenda. If you look at the content of the agenda, you’ll see there needs to be the rational/background for an item, and disclosure of the fiscal impact of an item, especially when items effect the general fund and the funding provided by local taxpayers. There are legal requirements that set an expectation for transparency. Lastly, our duty is to ensure public accountability for the decisions made by elected officials to their constituency.

The agenda item request of Supervisor Gonzales to place an item with significant consequences on the agenda is not for one, or even two, board members to decide. The request by Supervisor Gonzales made on Nov. 8, only included a request for an informational item. Never in the public eye was any financial request made to the Board of Supervisors. The fact that this conversation will happen shows a clear intention for the Board to be informed on the current fiscal concerns that the hospital will be sharing with our board. But we need to make clear that the county has not yet been presented with enough information on the issues relating to the hospital’s fiscal shortfall, their plan for solvency, and the next steps the hospital plans to take to ensure fiscal stability. With any government entity that is looking to help another organization that is accountable to its constituency, clarity is of the utmost importance. This is especially true when the decision would inevitably significantly alter not just one organization’s budget, but two.

Peter Hernandez,
Chair of the Board of Supervisors
[email protected]

Peter Hernandez