Evergreen hospital chair throws big money into election
Al DeYoung, chair of the EvergreenHealth hospital board, and relatives have spent $55,000 to unseat his colleague, Rebecca Hirt, and elect Kinnon Williams.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Big campaign spending — at least by standards in most public hospital districts — has come to the commission that oversees Kirkland-based EvergreenHealth.
Nearly all of the money — more than $55,000 — has come from the chair of the board of commissioners’, Al DeYoung, and his family.
DeYoung, a commissioner for 34 years, is backing attorney Kinnon Williams, who is seeking to unseat Commissioner Rebecca Hirt, who has been on the board since 1984.
Hirt has reported campaign contributions of $3,263, in any other year a substantial amount.
DeYoung called Williams “a young, bright fellow with a lot of experience” and said bringing in the Kenmore resident would broaden the geographic diversity of the five-member board, which now has three commissioners from Kirkland, including Hirt.
“I just feel that Kinnon is a better candidate,” DeYoung said. “That’s why I’m supporting him. I’m not here to say anything derogatory about Rebecca Hirt. That’s not what this is about. It’s about trying to have somebody who can do a better job and move Evergreen ahead.”
DeYoung, 84, said he doesn’t plan to run for re-election when his term ends two years from now.
DeYoung; his wife, Donna; and their daughter Lucy made contributions of $10,000 each to Williams’ campaign on July 23, five days before the state limited contributions to $800.
DeYoung doubled down on his contributions two weeks ago, creating a political committee, Keep EvergreenHealth Improving, and donating $30,000 to it, which then spent $25,000 on an independent mailing in support of Williams. Independent expenditures are not subject to the limits that apply to campaigns managed by the candidates.
The larger, Renton-based Valley Medical Center has had an even costlier election. There, Paul Joos spent $100,420 in 2011 to defeat Mary Alice Heuschel, who spent $92,800, in a district split over executive pay, an alliance with UW Medicine and other issues.
In the Evergreen district, Williams said DeYoung asked him to run for the hospital board, telling him, “We need some succession planning here.”
“They need new ideas, new blood,” Williams said. “They need people that have ideas about how to run things,”
Williams, a former Northshore Utility District trustee, is now an officer and trustee of the EvergreenHealth Foundation, along with Lucy DeYoung, a former Woodinville mayor.
In most past elections, candidates have limited themselves to “mini-reporting” to the state Public Disclosure Commission, under which they don’t report individual contributions but may raise no more than $5,000.
But in 2009, Al DeYoung upped the ante by making a $15,000 independent expenditure that helped retired physician Charles Pilcher oust incumbent Rex Lindquist.
Toby Nixon, a Kirkland City Council member who filed a complaint claiming Williams failed to file timely contribution reports to the PDC, called the size of DeYoung’s support for Williams “shocking.”
“I just feel so strongly that it is just plain wrong for one member of a public agency board to be making that kind of contribution to defeat a fellow sitting member of the same board,” Nixon said. “How do people sleep at night, doing that kind of thing?”
The PDC has not decided whether to investigate Nixon’s complaint. Williams said he initially submitted some reports by hand because he had difficulty with the required online reporting system.
Williams said he welcomes contributions from DeYoung, who has “helped make the hospital in so many ways.”
DeYoung has donated substantial sums to Evergreen, and one building is named the DeYoung Pavilion.
DeYoung said he doesn’t care if his spending sets a new high in the district. “I’m well within the law. ... I haven’t broken any law or done anything underhanded. I don’t know what the problem is,” he said.
Hirt declined to be interviewed but wrote in an email that DeYoung has called Williams “the best man for the job. And if the voter chooses who to elect based on gender, well, I certainly can’t pass for a man! “
Based on her experience and record, Hirt wrote, “I believe that while I’m not the best man for the job, I am the best person for the job.”
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information in this article, originally published Oct. 28, 2013, was corrected on Oct. 28, 2013. A previous version of this story incorrectly said a Renton-based medical center was called Valley General. The correct name is Valley Medical Center.