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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | Countywide

Hospital Gets OK on Bulk Postal Rate

May 20, 2000|GINA PICCALO

The U.S. Postal Service on Friday notified Community Memorial Hospital that it violated no laws in using nonprofit postal rates to send out 170,182 petitions in support of a hospital-sponsored ballot initiative.

A letter dated May 19 from U.S. Postal Service Manager Linda A. Deaktor said that the postal service is "satisfied . . . that the mailing was not ineligible" for the special rates, which saved the hospital $11,379 in postage.

Community Memorial's proposed November ballot measure seeks to transfer control of the county's $260-million tobacco settlement revenue to seven area hospitals, including Community Memorial.

In April, more than 100,000 Ventura County residents received a petition supporting the measure, a letter from the hospital's executive director, Michael Bakst, and a business reply envelope.

The hospital's use of the special mail rate came into question after Supervisor John Flynn complained to postal officials earlier this month.

In response, the postal service this week asked Bakst to explain the hospital's use of the bulk rate.

A letter sent Thursday from the hospital's attorney, Steven Lucas, to the postal service convinced Deaktor that Community Memorial and the Citizen's Committee to Safeguard the Tobacco Settlement for Healthcare, the other group named on the materials sent, were in fact part of the same company.

If the groups had been proved to be separate organizations, the hospital would have to reimburse the postal service $11,379 in unpaid postage.

Community Memorial attorney James R. Parrinello said he wasn't surprised by the postal service's quick exoneration of the hospital.

"It goes to show [Flynn] was trying to make a mountain out of nothing," he said.

On Friday, Flynn said he could not comment on the postal service's decision until officials notify him directly.

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