Big Bear Lake, CA — The Bear Valley Community Healthcare District meeting was filled to standing room only last week, and among those in attendance were the six applicants vying for the open, fifth seat on the board, as well as Vi Colunga, the district’s CEO who has been on a paid administrative leave since December 15.
Of the six Valley residents seeking to fill the post vacated by the district’s Treasurer Bill Speyers, each was given opportunity to answer eight questions during the open session portion of the February 10 meeting. Of those interviewed by the Healthcare District Board of Dr. Chris Fagan, Brad Summers, Ron Peavy and Kathy Bauch, Dr. Michael Hartstein received the nomination over Big Bear Chamber’s CEO Sara Russ, retired battalion chief Bill (aka Don) Smith, retired nurse administrator Barbara Espinoza, former health insurance professional and current DWP Commissioner Bill Giamarino, and Jim Gonzales, a doctor of public administration (per BVCHD records). The Healthcare District’s 2nd Vice President Summers nominated Hartstein, a motion which was seconded by Fagan though needed three votes to pass. Given a nay vote by Peavy, and as Bauch abstained, Dr. Hartstein did not receive the required votes to assume Speyers’s place on the board on a term that extends to November.
In a subsequent conversation with Summers, he tells KBHR, “We had six highly qualified candidates that we interviewed, any of whom would be a valuable asset to the board.” Dr. Chris Fagan, president of the Healthcare District since December 22, notes that the decision will be continued to the February 23 meeting as, he explains, “By process, if we don’t decide by March 1st, it goes to the County Board of Supervisors or special election.” As there was no replacement for Speyers named due to the 2-1-1 vote, the district’s CFO and current acting CEO Rudy Shutta noted, “After the motion by Mr. Summers, all the candidates expressed disappointment in the process, and members of the community also expressed that same disappointment.”

Vi Colunga

So while the board member selection process is ongoing, so too is the investigation with regard to Colunga, according to President Fagan. She did appear before the board, however, in open session and asked that if there were a written summation of charges against her, she would like to hear those—and in open session. As this was not on the agenda for discussion, board members were unable to comment upon her request though, notes Shutta, she has the opportunity to revise her request and redirect the summation to a future closed session meeting.
So though no definitive actions were taken, Summers adds, “Overall, I would say that it was a spirited meeting, with a lot of community involvement. The board is moving forward with the nomination process, as well as continuing the investigation in regard to the CEO’s paid administrative leave.”