By Mia Nakaji Monnier and Nao Nakanishi
Rafu Staff Writers
After more than four months of protest, the Ad Hoc Committee to Save Keiro has finally had a chance to speak directly with Attorney General Kamala Harris about the pending sale of Keiro Senior HealthCare’s facilities.
Charles Igawa, one of the co-chairs of the Ad Hoc Committee, said that he received a call from Harris on the afternoon of Tuesday, Jan. 12. The call was facilitated by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Gardena) and her staff, who have been publicly supporting the Ad Hoc Committee since November.
According to Igawa, Harris began the conversation by asking about the Ad Hoc Committee’s position. “I told her that I cannot accept the sale of Keiro’s facilities,” he told The Rafu Shimpo. “That’s, in my view, part of our Japanese American legacy and we cannot allow it to be sold. That’s like selling part of us. The Ad Hoc Committee is in agreement about that.”
Although Harris said that she cannot legally reverse her decision to allow Keiro to sell its facilities to Pacifica companies, she mentioned that her office could mediate a discussion among the Ad Hoc Committee, Keiro and Pacifica. The discussion period could be lengthened if necessary, which might lead to a postponement of the close of escrow.
Igawa said that he was careful during the phone conversation not to agree to anything on behalf of the committee. Among his group, members remain split: some welcome the idea of a conversation with Keiro, while others are not willing to consider alternatives other than stopping the sale. Igawa expects the committee to discuss its official response to Harris at its next meeting this Saturday.
The Ad Hoc Committee has also made progress in other ways, in part thanks to Congresswomen Maxine Waters and Judy Chu. It presented these new developments at a press conference on Thursday in Gardena, co-hosted by the two congresswomen.
First of all, the group is no longer technically an “ad hoc committee” but an officially incorporated nonprofit. They have also begun working with law firms Bet Tzedek, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, and Gibson Dunn and Crutcher, along with advocacy group the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.
Elissa Barrett, Vice President of Bet Tzedek, is leading the law groups to investigate the Ad Hoc Committee’s options to stop or postpone the sale. She feels that the ideal next step would be a face-to-face discussion with representatives from the committee, Keiro, and Pacifica.
Meanwhile, the California Department of Employment and Fair Housing is investigating a complaint about Keiro that claimed “violations of the civil rights, housing, and federal employment acts.”
Keiro Chair of the Board Gary Kawaguchi continues to express his frustration with the protesters. “Once again, we are disappointed by those who continue to inflame others to oppose this sale without telling people all the facts surrounding the current situation,” he said in a written statement to The Rafu. “We hope that people will take the time to review the documents available on Keiro.org so that they can see that this process, which has been open and transparent for over two years, is the only option to truly save Keiro. Without this sale, there will be no more Keiro and no one will be providing these services for our community.”
The Ad Hoc Committee will hold its next public forum at Centenary United Methodist Church in Little Tokyo on January 23 at 1 pm. For more information about the meeting, visit savekeiro.org.