Tulare County judge denies DA request to recognize TRMC board member

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TRMC's newly elected board member Senovia Gutierrez returned to court Monday as several lawyers fought for her right to be declared a board member. (KFSN)

The intense debate over the status of a Tulare Regional Medical Center board member continued in court Monday.

After Friday's hearing was continued, TRMC's newly elected board member Senovia Gutierrez returned to court Monday as several lawyers fought for her right to be declared a board member after she won Dr. Parmod Kumar's seat in a recall election this summer.

The Tulare County District Attorney's office filed a petition requesting Judge Reed recognize her as such. The office is also pursuing separate legal action through the California Attorney General's Office.

"What's happening is, no one is obeying her authority, including BakerHostetler, which, by the way, has been fired by the board, that's why we have two different attorneys representing the board here," said Trevor Holly with the DA's office.

"At that regularly scheduled meeting of the board, Ms. Gutierrez will be declared and as a result, all of this will be mooted," Robert Welsh said.

Welsh represents the board minority which is member Richard Torrez after Linda Wilbourn resigned in August. While a separate law firm now represents board members Mike Jamaica and Kevin Northcraft.

Earlier this month, Fitch Ratings downgraded more than $13 million of fixed-rate bonds issued by the hospital from B to CC.

Saying in a press release quote:

"The downgrade to CC represents very high levels of credit risk, reflecting TRMC's continued delays in executing external liquidity agreements to bolster working capital and heightened political instability at the TRMC board level."

Fitch has also kept the bonds and issuer default rating on a negative watch, citing concern over the breakdown of communication between the hospital's board and management.

"We are at a point to where this disruption is going to go on and on and on," attorney Dennis Maderos said. "There's one person who can end this, and that's this court."

Saying she needed the proper parties listed on the petition and clearer authority before moving forward, Reed denied the district attorney's office request for relief - meaning Gutierrez's status as a seated board member is still unclear.

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