Sonoma Valley Hospital foundation board resigns amid dispute

SONOMA -- The entire 12-member board of the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation abruptly resigned earlier this week, the result of an apparent dispute between management and the foundation over how to best attract fundraisers for the hospital.

The resignations comes at a key moment for the 83-bed hospital, operated by the Sonoma Valley Health Care District, which is in the process of raising $7 million for the facility’s $39 million rebuild. Most of the cost is being covered by a general obligation bond approved by Sonoma Valley voters.

Carolyn Stone, head of the foundation since 1985, has said publicly that she and other members felt as if the hospital was impeding the foundation’s fundraising efforts.  The foundation, which operated independently from the health care district, had $240,000 in cash as of July 2, according to Ms. Stone.

“The resignations were in response to the management of the Sonoma Valley hospital imposing strict restraints upon the activities of the foundation; and requiring the foundation to give up its development activities on behalf of the hospital,” Ms. Stone said in a press release.

With the resignations, the foundation has given the hospital control, according to the health care district.

“This means the hospital is now, on an interim basis, managing the Foundation’s current operations,” the district said in a memo.

The hospital said it will appoint an interim board chair and treasurer, as well as an events committee to assume responsibility for the upcoming “Dancing With Our Stars” event, which was being planned by the Foundation before the resignation and will benefit the hospital.

The hospital also downplayed any dispute, saying that the Foundation and the health care district had been in communication for months about the changing role of health care philanthropy.

“The hospital has been in discussions with the Foundation for several months, and was hoping to work together as our fundraising needs and style evolve,” hospital spokeswoman Bonnie Durance said. “That the board has decided to resign is their decision.

“We deeply appreciate all that the Foundation has done over the years. They have served as an emotional and social as well as fundraising source of support for the hospital and their service has been invaluable,” Ms. Durance added.

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