Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital. Photo by Leslie David
Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital. Photo by Leslie David

Steve Hannah was CEO of Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital just one month shy of two years. When he came to the hospital on Nov. 1, 2020 a press release stated he would “lead the hospital’s overall strategic plan and focus on quality initiatives, patient satisfaction, service excellence, business development and financial performance.

Apparently, he fell short of the San Benito Healthcare District board’s goal in some fashion. The District Board of Trustees terminated him Oct. 14.  “We, the San Benito Healthcare District Board have chosen to go in a different direction,” said Jeri Hernandez, the board chair. Hannah walks away with $360,563 in severance pay.

Hernandez told BenitoLink she can’t comment further because “the decision to release Mr. Hannah from his contract was made in a closed session meeting and cannot be made public.”

Hannah’s compensation agreement, effective July 1, 2021, was for four years to expire June 30, 2025. He received in addition to health and retirement benefits an annual salary of $350,000. At the end of each year, he would receive an incentive payment of 10% of his base salary based on the board’s determination that he had met the goals and incentives criteria.

“Steve was paid per the terms of his agreement when he separated,” Mark Robinson, chief financial officer, told BenitoLink. “He was not paid for the time remaining in his contract.”

Robinson said, per his contract, Hannah received 12-months or $360,563 severance. Hannah started at $350,000 annually but was given a $10,000 raise last year, Robinson said.

Hannah declined to answer BenitoLink’s request for comment, but according to Sherrie Bakke, director of patient and community engagement/business development, he did write a comment that was included in the Oct. 14 notice to hospital personnel with a subject line: Chief Executive Officer Transition.

“Thank you to all the staff, volunteers, leaders and providers for the great past two years as your leader,” he wrote. “Together, we were able to manage through the pandemic and accomplish fulfillment of the mission of Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital. I am proud of all of you and have the highest respect for all that you do. I leave you with my best wishes.”

BenitoLink reached out to former Hazel Hawkins board members. Only one former board member responded with only speculation, but on the condition of anonymity. “Did the loss of the Blue Cross contract put him in a tough spot where he no longer sees hope in the finances of the hospital?” the former board member asked. “He replaced everyone in upper management except for the CFO, so where are the finances headed?”

The person felt that if the board saw a financial problem, it was already too late.

“They are usually clueless about finances,” the person told BenitoLink, and further wondered if there was about to be a “mutiny in upper management.”

BenitoLink posed these and other questions to Mary Casillas, Hazel Hawkins chief operations officer and vice president of ambulatory service. She has not responded. BenitoLink also asked for clarification into the matter through a public records request. No response has been provided to date. 

 Related BenitoLink stories: 

New $250 million hospital for Hollister in the dream stage

Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital hires new CEO



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John Chadwell worked as a feature, news and investigative reporter for BenitoLink on a freelance basis for seven years, leaving the role in Sept. 2023. Chadwell first entered the U.S. Navy right out of...