AG-Mandated Community Advisory Board Announces 12 Members

South Bay Keiro Nursing Home in Gardena became KeiAi South Bay Healthcare Center earlier this year. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

South Bay Keiro Nursing Home in Gardena became KeiAi South Bay Healthcare Center earlier this year. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu English Editor-in-Chief

Representatives serving on the Community Advisory Board (CAB), a 12-member body mandated by the California Attorney General’s Office in conjunction with the sale of the former Keiro facilities, were announced on Aug. 22.

No issue has divided the Japanese American community in recent years as much as the sale of the Keiro facilities, but chairman Bruce Ishimatsu stressed that the CAB is an independent body whose mission is to ensure that the new operators of the four facilities comply with the conditions stipulated by the attorney general.

Ishimatsu is a practicing business litigation attorney and has served as president of the Japanese American Bar Association. His mother has been a resident at the Boyle Heights facility since 2014.

When the Attorney General’s Office approved the sale it imposed 13 conditions on Pacifica Companies, the new owners of Keiro’s facilities. The conditions will be in effect for five years and include but are not limited to accepting the “old-tier” rent amounts that were accepted at Keiro Retirement Home, providing Japanese foods and traditional Japanese activities, and observing Japanese holidays.

“The bottom line is this — nobody has yet tried to tell us what to do,” Ishimatsu stated. “Neither Keiro, Aspen [Skilled Healthcare, Inc.], Pacifica or Koreisha has told us what our governing rules should be. Nobody has exerted any influence, they haven’t said, ‘You guys shouldn’t be poking your nose in this area.’ We don’t take orders from anybody.

“Every year the owners have to submit a compliance report that is addressed to the attorney general so the attorney general can see if they are complying. CAB is to review the report that the operators intend to send. Our job is to decide whether they have met those conditions or not.”

The selection process was administered by Keiro Senior Healthcare and meetings began in February; however, Koreisha Senior Care & Advocacy representatives were not seated until the summer. The attorney general stipulated that three seats on the CAB be given to Koreisha (formerly the Ad Hoc Committee to Save Keiro).

The reason that the Koreisha members were not initially seated, Ishimatsu explained, was that they still had to apply to serve on the board and that they did not submit applications by the Dec. 15 deadline.

An individual had submitted an application by the deadline and indicated that she was a member of the Ad Hoc Committee, but she was not Koreisha’s official selection for the post.

“The one person who indicated that she was with that group, she was deemed by the group not to be part of the group, then we said she’s out,” Ishimatsu said.

With the attorney general’s approval, the CAB board was expanded from 10 to 12 members.

The Koreisha members are seated on the board: Laura Morita Bethel, Traci Toshiyuki Imamura and Mo Nishida. Other CAB members include Akiko Yamada Manaka, vice chair, Jerry Fukui, Dr. Kenneth Hayashida, William “Wimp” Hiroto, Junko Horii, Beverly Ito, Kaoru Hagihara Mase and Raymond Shibata.

Koreisha President Dr. Takeshi Matsumoto referred to a Vox Populi article written by Toshiyuki Imamura, “CAB or KAB?” published in The Rafu on July 2.

“In her Rafu article about the CAB, Traci commented on the three seats and the questionable makeup of CAB. Whether the CAB actually serves the interests and welfare of the Sakura Gardens residents, ICF patients, and Kei-Ai nursing home patients, only time will tell. I hope they do,” Matsumoto stated.

“One question, did the CAB complain to Northstar/Pacifica about the rent increase to new residents and the planned increase in fees for services aside from room and board, like bathing assistance and vital signs checks, etc.? These may be legal but protecting the financial interests of the residents demands a protest. Affordability is at issue.

“Koreisha and the Family Council of Kei-Ai shall remain an independent organization advocating for the welfare of residents and patients in these facilities.”

The CAB has held several meetings, the most recent this week, and the group has visited three of the four facilities to explain their goals and mandate.

A suggestion box for staff, residents and family members will be placed at all the facilities and Ishimatsu said he was open to having a meeting with the general public.

“If the general community would like to have us explain what our mission is, that would be fine. It would be an extension of what we’ve done,” he said.

CAB voted and approved their governing rules in July, prior to the seating of the Koreisha members. Among the rules are requirements that board members do not speak to the public or media about information presented in the CAB meetings. Minutes from the meetings are also not required to be made public.

“Because of the confidentiality that we’re bound to, we have our own governing rules, the agreement is that members will not speak to the press or publicly without prior consent of the entire CAB,” Ishimatsu said.

“It is difficult I will admit if a Koreisha person wants to express their views. The person has to be very careful that they do not disclose things they learned on the CAB.”

Ishimatsu said the 12 members are receiving no compensation for their work and will be issuing their own report, independent of the operators of the facilities. He said he is hoping to build a consensus among the CAB.

“The idea is that the people on the board come from various segments of the community, and they have some connection with the community. That is the oversight group of the owners’ compliance with the conditions of sale,” Ishimatsu stated.

Biographies of CAB Members