After researching FPPC filings and other public records, it appears that a member of the Mendocino Coast Healthcare District’s Board of Directors lied to a state commission and so far has gotten away with it.
On June 4, 2020, the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) received a complaint against John Redding, a member of the board of directors for the Mendocino Coast Healthcare District (MCHD). The complaint was filed by John Allison of Westport, a former member of the finance and planning committees of MCHD. Allison alleged that Redding misused his position to “promote the Fort Bragg Critical Loads Microgrid Project in which his for-profit corporation, UniGen Resources, Inc., has a commercial and financial interest. He procured City and County support for the Microgrid Project by representing that the Mendocino Coast District Hospital [MCDH] would provide land for the Microgrid Project for at least 10 years, when the use of hospital land for the Microgrid Project was never approved by the MCDH Board or by the voters. John Redding also failed to disclose material facts about his involvement in the Microgrid Project to his fellow MCDH Board members, to third parties and to the public.”
Many of the basics of the chronology of events in this matter can be found in the September 16th edition of the AVA. A relatively brief recap: In late 2019, Pacific, Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) issued a Request for Offers (RFO) for energy resources to help abate the consequences of future Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS). Mr. Redding's company, UniGen Resources, Inc., submitted a proposal with letters of support from the City of Fort Bragg, the county board of supervisors, and the interim chief executive officer (CEO) of the coast hospital. These letters were authored in mid-January, 2020.
In the course of events surrounding this proposal for a grant award from PG&E, which would have run well into the millions of dollars, Redding conducted meetings with one to two members of the Board of Supervisors and one to two members of the Fort Bragg City Council along with others. In the formal, public presentation of the matter before Fort Bragg's City Council, led by Mayor Will Lee, who is also employed at the coast hospital, the council was told that a proposed microgrid project could be constructed on land possessed by the Mendocino Coast Healthcare District.
This proved a major sticking point. That land is owned by the coast healthcare district citizens and any use of it would have to be approved by the full MCHD board and probably a public vote as well. Redding, who has been chair of the MCHD Finance Committee since January, 2019, made no effort to bring the proposal to a vote in his own committee let alone take it on to the full board until late May, 2020.
Leaving that issue aside, Allison's FPPC complaint concluded with this allegation: “John Redding led the Fort Bragg City Council, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors and presumably PG&E to believe that MCDH would contribute land for the Microgrid Project when no such commitment had been made by MCDH and when John Redding had no authority to make any such commitment. He used his position as an elected member of the MCDH Board to obtain City and County support for a project that will financially benefit his for-profit corporation, UniGen Resources, Inc. He failed to disclose material facts to the City Council, the Board of Supervisors, his fellow MCDH Board members, and members of the public. John Redding should be removed from office as a member of the MCDH Board.”
John Redding submitted a reply to the FPPC complaint on June 8, 2020. In it he stated, “This proposal is the result of a meeting that four community members, myself included, held to discuss what we could do as a community to mitigate the devastating effects that the PSPS had on the disadvantaged Fort Bragg community. It was decided to submit the proposal just mentioned. Because I personally have developed projects like this in the past, I offered to take the lead on preparing the proposal on a pro-bono basis. I should note that my present company is an energy-related software company that would not otherwise be interested in a project like this.”
Redding continued, “It was my opinion from the beginning that PG&E would not accept the proposal, which failed to meet all the bid requirements. The purpose rather was to open a dialogue on what could be done to mitigate a future PSPS. On Friday June 5th this came to pass when PG&E informed me that the proposal was rejected but that PG&E would be working with the city of Fort Bragg on other solutions.
“Therefore, I can have no possible conflict of interest since this project will never come to fruition. And as mentioned before, I have received no compensation for the significant amount of time and effort I put in on behalf of my community.
“Finally, had the project gone forward and my Board of Directors were voting on use of the land, I would have obviously recused myself.”
About the use of the hospital/healthcare district land for the microgrid project, Redding wrote, “I believe the salient point to make is that Mr. Allison was not in a position to know what I may or may not have represented to the City of Fort Bragg and the County of Mendocino because he was not present at any of the handful of meetings that took place among all the parties.
“The fact is that the hospital land was identified as a possible location. This is normal practice when a proposal is being created and before it has been accepted for negotiating purposes. I made it clear that it would eventually need approval by the MCDH Board and city and county representative are of course familiar with how that works. Indeed, the city and the county identified property where the solar panels could be installed but no one ever thought this was a final commitment. Besides, the microgrid proposal could have gone forward without use of the land belonging to the hospital.”
Redding employed a similar argument to deflect Allison's allegation that other hospital/healthcare district Board members had not had the material facts of the issue presented to them. “Mr. Allison is in no position to know what I may or may not have disclosed about the microgrid project.
“The facts are that my involvement is a matter of public record. Indeed, this is precisely how Mr. Allison learned of my involvement in the first place. Next, as mentioned above, the city and the county representatives understood completely the nature of my involvement. Also, I mentioned the project to the interim CEO and one of my fellow Board members but was prohibited by the Brown Act from discussing it with the others.”
In addition, Redding stated, “Mr. Allison suggests that I am withholding the full proposal for nefarious reasons. This is simply untrue. The proposal is based upon a partnership between UniGen Resources and NEXTracker and is governed by a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Similarly, I signed a Confidentiality Agreement with PG&E. I made this clear to Mr. Allison in declining his request. Two days later, however, I received a request from the Vice Mayor of Fort Bragg, Mr. Bernie Norvell for the full proposal. I again explained why I could not do that but did offer to review the full proposal with him in person. I just could not leave him a copy. He was not satisfied with this very reasonable offer.”
At the conclusion of his letter to the FPPC, Redding stated that he hoped for a quick resolution to the matter. The FPPC responded within two and a half weeks. The operative line in their one paragraph reply, “The Enforcement Division will not pursue this matter further.”
So the story should end, one would think. Hardly.
Having read through the entirety of Mr. Redding's response to the FPPC several things are striking. Some are small, such as in his summary paragraph he states that for a year John Allison has “ made false allegations to my Board members...” What is true there is that Mr. Allison and Mr. Redding had been at odds for almost as long as Redding had served on the hospital board. However, what struck this reader was the “my Board members” phrasing. That the other board members are somehow possessed by Mr. Redding is fairly indicative of the man's egocentric thinking and actions.
Earlier in the letter, Redding stated that the hospital land had been 'identified' [Redding's emphasis] as a possible location for the microgrid project. Well, yes, if you were privy to the meetings Redding held with city and county officials. However, the hospital land had not “identified” to the President and the Secretary of the hospital board, and possibly one other member of the board. That did not happen until the very May meeting at which John Allison brought the matter up in public comment. In other words, Mr. Redding appears to be well versed in equivocation, statements that are true in one narrow sense, but utterly false in a broader sense.
There are other examples of equivocation and partial truths in Mr. Redding's response to the FPPC and the matter of how much the project might have benefited Mr. Redding's company, directly or indirectly, can be left for another time, but let's cut to the chase.
John Redding appears to have lied in his response to the FPPC. Here is the section of his letter in which he lies. We need to reread nearly a full paragraph to get the context. “It was my opinion from the beginning that PG&E would not accept the proposal, which failed to meet all the bid requirements. The purpose rather was to open a dialogue on what could be done to mitigate a future PSPS. On Friday June 5th this came to pass when PG&E informed me that the proposal was rejected but that PG&E would be working with the city of Fort Bragg on other solutions. Therefore, I can have no possible conflict of interest since this project will never come to fruition.”
Leave aside the bizarre nature of “ It was my opinion from the beginning that PG&E would not accept the proposal, which failed to meet all the bid requirements.” Drop down to this line: “I can have no possible conflict of interest since this project will never come to fruition.”
Pretty much indicates that Redding is done with such projects, especially having to do with the hospital land that wasn't his for the giving. Well, apparently because the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) was beginning a second phase of microgrid grants, but who knows for sure what the motivation was, Redding was back pursuing a microgrid project in about a month's time.
At this juncture one has to interject why you, the readers, have been seeing almost double in the acronym file. MCDH and MCHD. The first stands for the Mendocino Coast District Hospital. That term was used to refer to the coast hospital, used in reference to the board of directors, who were really in charge of the Mendocino Coast Healthcare District as a whole, hence MCHD. After July 1, 2020, the hospital and its day to day operations fell under the purview of Adventist Health (AH). The hospital itself now operates under the name Adventist Health Mendocino Coast (AHMC). The healthcare district, with its elected board continues as MCHD. Under the affiliation agreement between MCHD and the Adventists, a legal position has been offered regarding the five to ten acres Redding wanted for the microgrid project. To summarize concerning the undeveloped surplus property on MCHD land, the district granted to AH an option to purchase said surplus property at fair market value. In effect the lease between AH and MCHD has encumbered the district's real estate holdings for the entirety of the lease (potentially thirty years). Thus, anything placed on that property, microgrid or otherwise would have to gain the approval of Adventist Health.
In late July and early August Redding was again telling Fort Bragg City officials that Adventist Health was on board with his project. However, when I contacted the President of Adventist Health for the entire county about Redding's claim, the lead AH official said he had always liked the idea of some sort of power backup for the coast hospital in a long term power shut down or outage, but that Redding did not have permission to use the encumbered land for any new project. It was at this point in Redding's double dealings that the City of Fort Bragg issued a letter addressed to Redding and his wife pulling out of any project with them.
Clearly, this project that Redding stated would “never come to fruition” was back on the drawing table. Essentially what Mr. Allison alleged in his complaint to the FPPC was occurring all over again. Redding was telling varying stories of approval to the different government parties he wanted/needed to back his project.
More direct proof of Redding's character and contradictory statements comes to us in the form of an email exchange he had with Fort Bragg City Council member Bernie Norvell on June 1, 2020, now available as a result of public records requests. Norvell began the conversation about the lack of transparency on Redding's part. “... the healthcare district was not involved in the decisions to provide the land. Having looked into this, including what you've sent, I cannot find where the district signed off or even discussed this.”
Later in the email Norvell stated, “I doubt there is anyone who is not in support of the concept, but the process has to be transparent. I'm not confident it has been to this point.”
At his diplomatic best, late in the email exchange, Redding told Norvell, “Good luck finding anyone who will work with you.” Even more germane to the issue, Redding stated, “You are the one who represents his constituents poorly and are directly responsible for my not wanting to work with the city of Fort Bragg on any project.”
Not wanting to work with the city of Fort Bragg ever again matches Redding's claim to the FPPC that all allegations against him were immaterial because he had dropped the microgrid project. Yet in early August Redding is on record writing about his continued pursuit of a microgrid project. On August 11, 2020, Redding wrote, “The City of Fort Bragg has withdrawn from the proposed microgrid project even though we were working on getting a grant to pay for the entire project.” He didn't stop there, continuing his screed by throwing Adventist Health under the bus. “Moreover, our new neighbor the Adventist Health team didn't even want to talk about. As the old adage goes, Fort Bragg never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
In short, Redding told the FPPC on June 8th he couldn't be guilty of any misrepresentations about the microgrid project because the project was dropped then he continued to pursue a similar project with similar misrepresentations to the city, Adventist Health and his fellow board members.
What should be done with an elected official who twists the facts, misrepresents what was really going on, and apparently lied to the FPPC in writing? That is for others to decide. Whether Redding should be removed from the MCHD board, as Allison recommended, is largely up to the electorate who voted him into his MCHD board seat. About the only way to remove him is through a recall election. His term in office runs through the end of 2022.