Slim majority picks Gonzales
Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/11/2011 09:58:17 PM PST

Supervisor Josie Gonzales on Tuesday was elected to chair the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors over the opposition of two of her colleagues.

Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt also sought the position and voted against Gonzales, as did Supervisor Neil Derry.

Derry said he could not support Gonzales, who has served on the board since 2004, because she was linked to a federal probe of the county’s Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton and has opposed nearly every governmental reform he has proposed since he took office in 2008.

Gonzales’ supporters, however, lauded her for the work she has done for her district, touting her as an ideal choice.

Eloise Gomez Reyes, a Colton-based personal injury attorney
who has known Gonzales about 10 years, said Gonzales has remained visible in her community and accessible to her constituents.

“That’s why they elected her twice. They deserve to have her represent them as chair,” said Gomez Reyes, of Grand Terrace.

Derry said employees at Arrowhead Regional complained to him last year about certain county officials, including Gonzales, receiving free medical treatment at the hospital and having their own special files labeled “do not bill.”

He said he turned the information over to the FBI and the District Attorney’s Office. Both agencies are now investigating.

“The allegations at hand don’t just involve the mere waiver of a modest co-pay,” Derry said. “But the waiver of co-insurance payments and in many cases the complete absorbing of costs by a publicly funded facility to persons with substantial health insurance coverage.”

Gonzales has denied that she ever received free medical treatment from Arrowhead.

Derry supported Mitzelfelt’s bid for chairman.

In a brief statement from the dais, Mitzelfelt distanced himself from Derry’s comments, saying Derry’s reasons for not supporting Gonzales were his own.

“I have my own reasons for opposing this motion, but they’re my own,” Mitzelfelt said.

Supervisor Janice Rutherford, who like Gonzales is a former Fontana councilwoman, made the motion to elect Gonzales to chair the board. It was seconded by outgoing Board Chairman Gary Ovitt. Gonzales’ vote for herself secured her the position.

Mitzelfelt was subsequently elected by a unanimous vote the board’s vice chairman.

Rutherford, who took office last month and campaigned on a platform of more government transparency and fiscal responsibility, said her decision to support Gonzales was based on a 40-year board policy and best practice that provides for an “orderly and equitable rotation of the chairmanship.”

“The policy clearly states that each member should be given the opportunity to serve as the chairperson unless they do not desire to assume that responsibility, and Chairwoman Gonzales has assured me she is ready, willing and able to fill this leadership role,” Rutherford said.

Gonzales said the FBI probe is not exclusive to just a few county officials. A slew of other names, including Derry’s, were listed on the federal search warrant, she said.

To read entire story, click here.