Grand Jury to Investigate Hospital Board

By Mario Conde

The Grand Jury has been requested to investigate the Calexico Heffernan Hospital Board in regards to misappropriation of public funds.

The Calexico Hospital Board has been looking at purchasing 15 acres of the Calexico Mega Park in Calexico in order to construct a medical campus. The Calexico Planning Commission approved the project back in last summer the project site the consists of 150 acres of land located on the southeast quadrant of Hwy 111 and Japer Rd across the highway of the Casino project. The site has historically been used as farmland and is located within the City limits.

The City of Calexico has received a letter from the project developers and requested to rescind  the Mega Park project. The developers will re-submit a new plan to sell the property by parcels, this means the land will now be undeveloped raw land with a price tag of much less that they started with going from $60,000 an acre to about $30,000 a maximum. If Heffernan paid the original price of $217,000 an acre it will drop down to $30,000 overpaying more than what the land is actual worth.

The cost of the land to Mega Park was proposed to be worth $9 million dollars but since no prospective tenants were coming, the project was in danger in going into foreclosure. The Heffernan Board gave the project  a $450,000 dollar loan. The loan for Mega Park will be paid back to Heffernan on or before May 15, 2010 with 6% interest annually.

The property in Jasper Road has been proposed since 1994 to be the site of three projects that have failed to move forward. A commercial power center and a light industrial development on the project site was proposed in the early 90’s. This project never moved forward and later on it was proposed to develop a mixed used project on site, consisting of commercial highway and multi-family residential uses, also considered by the City.

The Mega Park was the third project proposed for this area.

Former Hospital Board member Mark Perrone sent a letter to the Hospital board in late 2008 before the end of his term as board member questioning the rush of its members to complete the transaction at the Mega Park. He said the board needed to do its due diligence commitments before spending $3.3 million dollars for a property. Perrone asked the board why are they buying land when it cannot be developed and with no prospects or tenants. He recommended to create a business plan that insures transparent, open handed and impartial decision making. He questioned the Chairperson of the board about who will pay for the parcel, construction cost, and on-site improvement and infrastructure.

The Heffernan Board and the JPA Board, composed of Heffernan Board members and Calexico Council members, voted not to record Perrone’s letter on their minutes and agenda.