By NAO NAKANISHI and MIA NAKAJI MONNIER, Rafu Staff Writers
Members of the Ad Hoc Committee to Save Keiro met on Nov. 24 with California State Attorney General Kamala Harris’ staff at the Los Angeles branch of the Attorney General’s Office.
The long-awaited meeting to discuss the sale of Keiro Senior HealthCare’s four facilities to the for-profit Pacifica Companies was set up through the efforts of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Gardena). Although the attorney general has already approved the sale, with conditions, the committee is requesting that the sale be postponed and that a public hearing be held.
The committee was represented by Itsuki Charles Igawa, Ph.D., sociologist; Keiko Ikeda, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist; Takeshi Matsumoto, M.D.; Jonathan Kaji, president of Kaji & Associates; Traci Toshiyuki Imamura, IT system analyst; Ray Hamaguchi, real estate consultant; Rex Hamano, CPA; and Ron Hirano, general practice civil attorney. Waters and two members of her staff also attended.
Representing the attorney general were Tania Ibanez, senior assistant attorney general in Los Angeles office; Suzy Loftus, general counsel from the San Francisco office; Mark Breckler, chief assistant attorney general, charitable trusts section from the San Francisco office; and Robert Sumner, deputy attorney general, office of legislative affairs from the Sacramento office.
According to the committee members, they presented questions based on their review of 2,000 pages of documents submitted by Keiro to the Attorney General’s Office, leading to approval of the sale. The committee brought up concerns about the validity of public meetings that Keiro held, the property evaluation, and Keiro’s interpretation of demographic changes in the Japanese American community, among other topics.
The committee then reiterated that Harris should consider postponing the sale and holding a public hearing.
The attorney general’s staff maintained that they cannot legally retract their approval of the sale, as stated in a previous letter to the committee. However, they listened intently to what members said and took notes. The meeting lasted two and a half hours.
At the meeting, it was found that there are additional documents submitted by Keiro regarding the 62 meetings that became the basis for the attorney general’s decision to waive a public hearing. The committee asked for copies of those documents.
The committee alleges that the 62 meetings were not open to the community as a whole, but were held with small groups such as board members,staff members and residents’ families — and were held before Pacifica was chosen as the buyer.
Ikeda said after the meeting that the attorney general’s staff will review the information presented by the committee as well as the additional documents provided by Keiro, and release its conclusions sometime this week.
Kaji, the committee’s spokesperson, said, “We had a productive meeting. We plan to hold a follow-up meeting in the near future. I believe we established a good working relationship and look forward to further discussion. We are especially thankful to Rep. Waters for dedicating her time and energies in identifying a solution which will protect the interests of the Keiro residents, their families, the Keiro employees, and the greater community.”
“Our next step depends on the content of the response from the attorney general, but we have no idea to compromise on the sale of Keiro,” said Igawa, a chairman of the committee.
Background of Meeting
The Ad Hoc Committee to Save Keiro’s third public meeting was held on Nov. 23 at JACCC’s Aratani Theatre with an audience of nearly 500 strong. In addition to Waters, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena) and Assemblymember David Hadley (R-Torrance) pledged their support of the committee’s campaign.
Attendees were encouraged to know that members of Congress and the Legislature had taken up their cause.
Waters’ involvement resulted from a private meeting on Nov. 9 between the congresswoman, her husband and office staff, and Ikeda, Matsumoto and Irie. According to Ikeda, Waters listened to their case and decided to support them.
Right after the meeting, Waters called Harris and expressed frustration that a public hearing was waived. Her direct communication with Harris led the attorney general’s staff to invite the committee to the Nov. 24 meeting.
Harris and Waters
Harris, previously district attorney of San Francisco, is the 32nd attorney general of California. On Nov. 4, 2014, she was re-elected to a second term. She is the first woman, the first African American, and the first South Asian to hold the office. Her mother is Indian and her father is Jamaican American.
Harris is currently running for the U.S. Senate seat that is being vacated by Sen. Barbara Boxer. She is purported to have close ties to President Obama, and is seen as a strong candidate.
Waters has served in Congress since 1991 and is a member and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus as well as a member of the Congressional Asian American Pacific Caucus, which Rep. Chu chairs.
Given Waters’ long tenure in Congress and influence within the California Democratic Party, her support for the Ad Hoc Committee to Save Keiro could be getting Harris’ attention as she runs for the Democratic nomination for Senate. Members of Congress might not be able to change the course of Keiro’s sale, but they can help the committee’s cause through public appearances and private meetings.
It remains to be seen if support for the committee from Democratic members of Congress, 16 of whom signed a letter to Harris to request a postponement of the sale, will affect her standing in the Japanese American/Japanese-speaking and larger Asian American community.