Firing of Longtime Nurse at Hospice by New Executive Director Creates Firestorm

Investigation by Vanguard Leads to Apparent Threats Against a Local Attorney

Yolo Hospice has long been one the respected pillars of the Davis and Yolo County community. However, recently the organization has been rocked after Jody Norton, former Yolo Hospice Director of Patient Care, who worked for the organization for 19 years and served for two months as acting executive director, was abruptly terminated on January 14.

On January 30, Piper Berge, who worked as Information Technology Manager for Hospice, was abruptly terminated after she went to the Hospice Board to complain about the termination of Ms. Norton. The Vanguard has learned that at least two other employees have quit as the result of both treatment by staff and working conditions at the facilities. These include Gila Libet,  and an RN, Helen Pomerleau, an RN. (CORRECTION SEE BOTTOM)***

Several others are in the process of interviewing before they leave.

Jody Norton had worked with Yolo Hospice since 1996. Prior to her employment at Yolo Hospice, Ms. Norton worked as an oncology nurse. During her tenure at Yolo Hospice, Ms. Norton, who is extremely well-regarded by everyone the Vanguard spoke to about this matter, served in multiple capacities and has been recognized for helping maintain excellent clinical care services – all while striving to preserve and emphasize the importance of the patient relationship to successful care.

The organization grew great during her tenure and, on multiple occasions, Ms. Norton would serve as Interim Executive Director during multiple transition periods between Executive Directors. The board had also asked Jody to assume the Executive Director position, which she declined in favor of her love of patient care – just before they hired Craig Dresang.

Yolo Hospice now has an annual operating budget of over $5 million and is a round-the-clock, not-for-profit, hospice care public entity that serves Yolo, Solano, Sacramento, Colusa and Sutter counties.

New Leadership at Yolo Hospice

The Yolo Hospice Board, in the last three or four months, hired Craig Dresang out of Chicago. According to his bio, Mr. Dresang, who declined an interview, has more than 25 years of nonprofit management experience, including 15 years as a senior leader in healthcare. Prior to his current position Mr. Dresang was the vice president for community development and programs for Midwest Palliative and Hospice Care Center in Chicago, a $30 million healthcare organization that ranked in the top 20 nationwide for quality inpatient care, and was recognized as one of Chicago’s top 100 workplaces.

While Mr. Dresang declined an interview, in an op-ed published over the weekend he referenced challenges and changes over four decades, and then “recent changes” which he said “have sparked a lot of healthy dialogue about the ‘heart of Yolo Hospice.’”

He writes, “The best description I’ve heard regarding our organizational heart came from Janene Ramos, executive administrator.” She said, “Every time I see one of our nurses, social workers, chaplains, home health aides or volunteers walk through the doors of our building, I think … there walks the heart of Yolo Hospice.”

He then, without reference to the turmoil in the organization, introduced a new leadership team.

January 14, 2015, Termination of Jody Norton

On January 14, 2015, Jody Norton was, in the words of some, “abruptly and unceremoniously fired” from Yolo Hospice by Director Craig Dresang, and was immediately escorted from the Yolo Hospice premises. The reason given in Jody’s termination letter was “I no longer have confidence in your abilities as Director of Patient Care Services.”

She was shocked and distressed by this termination, but when she asked for an explanation, none was forthcoming.

When Jody Norton later appealed to Board President Tom Frankel for intervention, Mr. Frankel informed her that the board does not involve itself in any personnel matters or issues, and that such actions are left solely to the discretion of the Executive Director. Mr. Frankel also informed her at that time that there is no appeal or review process for her termination of employment.

The Vanguard was told that on January 26, 2015, Bryan Norton, husband of Jody Norton, attempted to attend the monthly Yolo Hospice Board of Directors meeting with several other staff and volunteers, to ask the board for action/explanation in support of Jody Norton’s termination and review of the process.

Mr. Norton was blocked from entry, and was told no one from the public was allowed in the board meeting – one source told the Vanguard this was in violation of their Employee Handbook. Bryan Norton was then told he must exit the premises; he was not allowed to even wait outside the meeting room to speak with staff members and volunteers after the meeting.

Piper Berge, the Information Technology Manager for Yolo Hospice for almost five years, was the spokesperson for the staff and volunteers in representing Jody Norton. With prior approval from Board President Tom Frankel, she was given five minutes at the beginning of the board meeting to speak.

Four days later, she was fired by Executive Director Craig Dresang. The letter sent via email contained no discussions, no performance issues, no warning. The reason given was similar to that in Ms. Norton’s termination letter – “I no longer have confidence in your abilities as Information Technology Manager.”

A month earlier, Ms. Berge had received an “above expectations” evaluation.

Hospice Response

After several unsuccessful attempts by the Vanguard to reach Executive Director Craig Dresang, Mr. Dresang on Wednesday morning sent a short statement to the Vanguard via email.

He indicated, “I’ve been squarely focused on Yolo Hospice’s core issues which are the outstanding care of our terminally ill patients and the compassionate support of their families.”

“Contrary to your statement, Yolo Hospice has not laid off staff.  In fact, we are in an era of hiring credentialed clinicians and other professionals,” he stated. “Our 36-year history has always been marked by a culture of respect, dignity and integrity.”

He said, “We appreciate your inquiry about recent employment actions, however, because of well-established privacy rights we cannot publicly respond to confidential personnel issues.”

The Vanguard would later speak with Hospice Board President Tom Frankel. Mr. Frankel, a retired attorney in Yolo County, has served on the board for six years, three as president.

He reiterated to the Vanguard that what happened “has not been a board action.” However, the board backs the executive director 100 percent.

He told that the Vanguard that the board’s preference is not to have private personnel matters debated in the press. Several times he indicated that he could not comment on the specifics of these matters. He added, “I think that Yolo Hospice is a phenomenal organization.”

More Details Emerge

The Vanguard spoke with Helen Pomerleau and Gila Libet, both nurses who ended up leaving following the termination of Jody Norton.

Ms. Pomerleau said she got an email from Mr. Dresang, which stated that Jody Norton was “leaving.” She became concerned for Ms. Norton’s health, believing that if she were leaving it was must be health-related.

Ms. Pomerleau said that when she arrived at work the atmosphere had drastically changed. “It was as though everyone was in mourning,” she described, with people silent and sad in the office.

She inquired of the supervisor, who informed her that Ms. Norton was terminated. “I said this is a hostile work environment because everyone is afraid to talk about what happened.”

Her use of the term “hostile work environment” would quickly be turned against her.

Ms. Pomerleau told the Vanguard, “I had also sent him (Dresang) an email saying that he ‘took the heart out of Yolo Hospice,” and Jody had been a big part of Yolo Hospice.” She added, “If you are going to fire the most competent nurse there, the one we went to for resource when we had a problem… who kept the place running when the executive office has been vacant, what’s going to happen to other people?”

She said the firing “all of sudden changed the whole dynamics of the place. You have a guy who comes in and has been there for 14 weeks, who fires someone who has been there for almost 20 years.”

The next weekend, when she was at work, she said she had a brief encounter with Mr. Dresang in the lunchroom, after which he ended up sending her an email reprimanding her for being rude to him and referencing some confrontation in the parking lot.

She said that later, she was walking in the hallway and exchanging pleasantries, when Mr. Dresang turned and yelled at her saying, “That will be enough of that attitude.” At this point she said, “I could see the handwriting on the wall. I could tell I was his next victim because I had used the word it was a hostile work environment.”

Helen Pomerleau then went to the January 26 board meeting. She was confronted by the HR Director, who told her that she needed to talk to her now. Ms. Pomerleau said she attended the meeting, spoke briefly about her concerns and left.

She said, after trying to follow up with the HR Director, “I’m done with this place. It’s changed. It isn’t what Yolo Hospice was when I started working there.” She said that, once the trust factor was gone, “you don’t have a working relationship anymore so I chose to leave.”

Gila Libet, also a nurse, spoke at length to the Vanguard, as well. She also told the Vanguard that, when Jody Norton was fired, they were told she was leaving and found out later it was untrue. There was an eerie silence at Yolo Hospice and no one seemed to know the reason Ms. Norton was terminated.

In a letter she wrote on behalf of Ms. Norton, Ms. Libet wrote, “What kind of message are we sending to the greater community, when after 19 years of hard work, dedication, building a great organization with the highest morals and ethics, we terminate this very same person who made us proud of who we are. After all she sacrificed, all her righteous fights and all the many problems she solved single handedly, we fired her.”

“I am ashamed to let it happen. I am ashamed it happened in my family of YH. Why, I asked? They tell me, I do not know everything. I am the first one to admit it. But what I know sends chills down my spine,” she said. She added, “If it happened to Jody it can happen to anyone of you.”

Threats Issued?

At this point, this was a typical personnel story. We have the claims by the employees who are free to air their grievances and the inability for management to respond until there is a formal action. That changed on Wednesday.

The Vanguard learned of this termination just after the January 26 meeting and began investigating. Last week, a call was placed to Executive Director Craig Dresang for comment, with no response.

This week, another call was placed on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings – no response. An email was sent on Tuesday – again no response.

Finally, after a more aggressive call on Wednesday morning at around 9:30 am, the Vanguard received the emailed statement from Craig Dresang, declining further comment. The email was received at 11:52 am and a follow up call from the receptionist at 12:30 pm confirmed receipt.

Then the story takes a bizarre turn because, just before 1:30 pm, the Vanguard received a call from Mary-Alice Coleman, who is representing both Jody Norton and Piper Berge in potential litigation.

(Full disclosure: Mary-Alice Coleman is an advertiser on the Vanguard. A prominent employment law attorney, a number of her cases have been covered by the Vanguard, including most recently the Janet Keyzer case that went to trial against UC Davis).

Ms. Coleman informed the Vanguard that her office had received two phone calls, one of which was threatening. The calls came in around 11:56 am and at 11:58 am.

In a statement, she indicated that, when the first call came in and made a threat against her, her receptionist hung up on the caller, but the caller called back. The office manager then picked up the second call, but the caller hung up.

She said, “We contacted the Davis Police Department and reported the incident and the phone number of the caller. The police followed up, and have now informed me that the caller was the significant other of someone at Yolo Hospice.”

“When I asked questions of the officer, he confirmed that he spoke with the caller and that the caller is related to the Director of Yolo Hospice. The officer confirmed that he then called Craig Dresang and talked to him about the threatening phone call. Dresang claimed that he knew nothing about the call or the caller,” she added.

She told the Vanguard she intends “to file a restraining order against both Joseph Drozd and Craig Dresang as a result of this threat being made against me.”

The Vanguard confirmed with Assistant Police Chief Darren Pytel that Officer Michael Yu had been called out to investigate.

However, the story does not end there.

At 11:32 am, the Vanguard had received the first of three posts from a new user, mm658, who wrote, “You are not truly journalists. You operate at the whim of your advertisers… especially attorneys. You are both a fraud and a disgrace to the art of journalism.”  The user, as of 7:30 pm last night, deleted his or her profile.

Vanguard comments from mm658 at 11:32 am
Vanguard comments from mm658 at 11:32 am
The user name for mm658 matches the user name for this commenter on a petition for Jody Norton that has since been closed down.
The user name for mm658 matches the user name for this commenter on a petition for Jody Norton that has since been closed down.

It was only later that we were able to put the two together. The timeline is uncanny. At 9:30 am, Yolo Hospice was called again for comment. At 11:32 am, mm658 posted the comment, clearly referencing our investigation and Ms. Coleman. At 11:52 am, we received the email from Mr. Dresang. And at 11:56 am, the Law Offices of Mary-Alice Coleman received the telephone threat.

The Vanguard spoke with Board President Tom Frankel regarding the messages. He acknowledged speaking with the office about what had transpired, and indicated that the police were downplaying the incident.

He said, “I don’t believe that anyone at Yolo Hospice is involved in this.” He indicated that Yolo Hospice has been getting harassing calls, as well, and has turned them over to the police.

Mr. Frankel told the Vanguard that Mr. Drozd, the significant other of the Executive Director, was not in the office and was never alone today.

The Vanguard was told by other sources that, when Craig Dresang arrived at Yolo Hospice, he installed his significant other, Joseph Drozd, as a “volunteer” receptionist and grant writer at the Davis offices.

Mr. Frankel, while downplaying the incident and denying Yolo Hospice’s involvement, also acknowledged that very few people should have been aware of the Vanguard’s investigation. Ms. Coleman told the Vanguard that very few would have been aware of her involvement in the case.

Assistant Chief Pytel told the Vanguard that, at this time, the police do not consider the matter criminal. He said that for threats to be considered criminal they have to be ongoing, and this appears to be a one-time threat.

He did say that all involved have been contacted by police and put on notice should further developments occur.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

***Correction: The Vanguard list of leaving employees originally included: Cynthia Wolff, the Director of Outreach and Education whose last day will be March 2 and Donnalee Gates, whose last day was Wednesday, February 18, 2015.  However, Cynthia Wolff called the Vanguard to correct this information.  She sent an email stating: “I am leaving Yolo Hospice due to an opportunity I was offered in Sacramento. Many factors were weighed before making my decision. Work and life balance, my commute and other family obligations. It was a difficult decision as working with the Yolo Hospice team has been one of the highlights of my career and I wish them continued success and they have expressed the same wishes for me. Yolo Hospice is a unique and valuable community resource. It has been a blessing to work with the staff that bring their special talents to the care and comfort of our patients each day. I suggest if you have an opportunity to visit the office you will immediately feel how this organization radiates love for one another and our community.”

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Barack Palin

    Good stuff David, now that’s interesting.  These are the type of stories that I like when the Vanguard gets involved and investigates.  Keep it up!

    It might be interesting to check into the new director’s former workplace and see if there was also drama at that location.

  2. sisterhood

    Wow. What an interesting article. Wonder if she was terminated so they could hire friends and/or family members. It will be interesting to see who the new hires are, and their relationships to Mr. Dresang.

    I hope every reader who appreciates your journalistic skills becomes a monthly financial supporter of the Vanguard. Just think what could be accomplished, if every reader donaed $10 a month.

  3. Ann Block

    Very disturbing and sad news about Yolo Hospice.  Wonder why the Board is so “hands off?”

    Am also curious what the threats were…. they don’t have to be “ongoing” if obscene or threaten injury to person or property.  See PC 653m and 422.  Once is enough — and I’ve seen plenty of people prosecuted for one time threats under both these provisions.  Hope police dept. isn’t giving them a free pass because they are middle/upper class, “respectable” types…

  4. DanH

    Wow! Quite a story. The plot would provide a good story arch for a series on Lifetime channel. Unfortunately, stories such as these are all too common in the nonprofit world where at-will employment enables poor management, especially for businesses in that awkward $5M budget range.


  5. Anon

    Do we know on what legal basis the civil suit would be filed?  Generally employment is at-will, meaning an employee can be fired for any reason (other than for discriminatory reasons or some other limited exceptions).

  6. David Greenwald

    *** CORRECTION ***

    ***Correction: The Vanguard list of leaving employees originally included: Cynthia Wolff, the Director of Outreach and Education whose last day will be March 2 and Donnalee Gates, whose last day was Wednesday, February 18, 2015.  However, Cynthia Wolff called the Vanguard to correct this information.  She sent an email stating: “I am leaving Yolo Hospice due to an opportunity I was offered in Sacramento. Many factors were weighed before making my decision. Work and life balance, my commute and other family obligations. It was a difficult decision as working with the Yolo Hospice team has been one of the highlights of my career and I wish them continued success and they have expressed the same wishes for me. Yolo Hospice is a unique and valuable community resource. It has been a blessing to work with the staff that bring their special talents to the care and comfort of our patients each day. I suggest if you have an opportunity to visit the office you will immediately feel how this organization radiates love for one another and our community.”

  7. Davis Progressive

    this is pretty appalling.  it’s one thing if the organization says, this is a personnel matter, we really can’t comment. but the behavior and conduct of the exec dir. and his partner are unbelievable.

  8. Alan Miller

    I used Yolo Hospice when my mom was in her last days of life in June 2013.  They had a good reputation from everyone I talked to.  I was 90% very happy with their services.  There were a few disconnects due to the fact new people kept coming by, which was a little disconcerting when you are dealing with a death, but I understood the limitations they had with personnel.

    The only real complaint I had was when one of the supervisors came by just after my mom died and took one of the narcotic medications and legally destroyed it by filling it up with detergent, my detergent, all that remained, without asking first.  Taking care of that seemed to be the main reason she came by, as if I and the caregiver were going to start shooting the stuff up as soon as mom passed.  That may seem like a minor complaint, but when your mom died that morning and the body is sitting there, an extra trip to the grocery store, because someone used all your detergent without asking, is really annoying.

    I recommended Yolo Hospice to some people down the street when their mom was passing away about a year later, and they were significantly less happy with their service.  I don’t know the details, but they really didn’t like one of the people assigned to come by.  I couldn’t extrapolate these two data points to say service was going downhill, but I had made the recommendation not only on my mostly good experience, but on numerous others.  I was quite surprised they were unhappy.

    If the Davis Police say the threats are not a criminal matter now, I’ll take them at their word.   The problem here is that someone is acting childish, be it someone employed by the Hospice or someone who is involved with someone at the Hospice.  Either way, this will erode the confidence of the public, and erode the fund-raising ability of the Hospice.  The board had better get it’s head out it’s arse and realize that despite all the secrecy issues around employees, they had better get to the bottom of this — and fast — and come up with a believable and true tale to tell the public and take definitive action to rid the Hospice of whomever is the source of this behavior.  To fail to do this — pronto — will damage the Hospice reputation permanently, and the ones to suffer will be the dying and their families.  No scapegoats please!  Rid out the real problem or the ghost will rise again.

    As for “not knowing the whole story” about the terminations, that may or may not be true.  Perhaps there was a need to terminate even a long term employee.  It happens, the most famous perhaps being (rightly or wrongly) MADD’s board terminating its own founder; there are other examples of this in the non-profit world.  It’s also possible the board is the problem.  With all the secrecy, I couldn’t begin to speculate.

    The thing in general that some in the public in general needs to get out of their heads is this idea that non-profits are these angelic, all-good organizations just by the fact they don’t “make a profit”.  Employees can get fat salaries, and money can be laundered in strange and mysterious ways.  Non-profits can be as evil as giant corporations or government agencies.  No judgement on Yolo Hospice as the story has yet to unfold.  I hope, however it unfolds, public confidence is restored so the mission can continue and the once stellar reputation can be restored.

    1. DavisBurns

      Of course we all know the NFL is a non-profit.

      I would remind everyone that you do NOT have to end all trearments that extend life in order to receive Hospice care, although that is what they told my neighbor. When they tell patients that, the patient and their families are denied hospice care for until the the very end of life which isn’t ideal. When I confronted them with this fact, they denied that was their policy.


      1. DavisBurns

        I also want to point out that Medicare pays hospice for their services so while they may be a non profit, they are well paid for their services.  It is not a charity.

      2. djsomeyareed

        I’m sorry to say but you either misunderstood, were misinformed or misled. Unless you are under the age of 21, you must sign that you will not pursue any curative treatments related to your terminal illness and use only the hospice provided care (related to your terminal illness) in order to use hospice. Medicare states that you can continue care unrelated to your terminal condition if you pay your premiums but even this is stated to be “rarely allowed” by CMS.  Hospices do not generally allow for curative treatment as they would have to pay for your care from their own income. However, some well funded (usually for-profit) hospices have been allowed and offer limited treatments otherwise not allowed if they can show/prove that they are of benefit to the comfort and quality of life to the patient.

        There is a new “model” program, not yet in effect, that will for a three year test period allow patients with some 4 specific medical conditions (only) to receive concurrent care from their non-hospice physician but only under certain conditions and only with certain approved hospices. The Medicare reimbursement to hospices for this additional care will only be $400 per beneficiary per month so it’s not likely to cover much since the hospice will have to pay any difference out of pocket (or the patient will). The list of approved hospices for the concurrent program (called MCCM – Medicare Care Choices Model) does not yet appear to have been released publicly. Again, this is a test program. Those who have currently elected the standard hospice benefit are ineligible. Those who haven’t been receiving curative treatments (I believe it is, at minimum, 3 times within the previous year) are also ineligible.

        I felt this important to post because your post is incorrect and could create a false expectation among potential (or current) hospice patients. I mean no disrespect to you.

    2. Jim Frame

      one of the supervisors came by just after my mom died and took one of the narcotic medications and legally destroyed it by filling it up with detergent, my detergent, all that remained, without asking first.  Taking care of that seemed to be the main reason she came by, as if I and the caregiver were going to start shooting the stuff up as soon as mom passed.


      Based on a recent experience with hospice in another community, retrieving the narcotics ASAP after the client dies appears to be standard procedure, no doubt instituted in response to unauthorized redirection of controlled substances and legally inconvenient outcomes.  Using up your detergent was inconsiderate and was probably worth a mention to the organization to help them improve service, though.

      1. DavisBurns

        Yes, but it is bizarre to come without the basic supplies you know you will need to neutralize the medication.  And Alan is correct.  The last thing you need when a family member has died is to find someone else, who hasn’t just lost a family member and who is meant to be there to help you, has used the last of something  so you have to run an errand. It may be a small thing but it may also be a small thing you never forget.

  9. JWGreco

    I have never had any dealings with either Yolohospice or Craig Dresang but have known Jody for many years. Jody is a neighbor and a friend. I am well aware of both the quality of her character as well as her constant willingness to place the needs of not only her patients but also her fellow humans ahead of her own. If I were ever to wake up in a hospital after an accident or sudden illness, seeing Jody’s face providing care would immediately make me feel that there was hope.
    Reading this article disgusts me. The actions of the newly hired Executive Director smack of cronyism and a hugely overinflated ego or need to prove his “value” to his new employer via intimidation of personnel. His seemingly total disregard for long term, respected, and valuable employees is appalling. If someone within his close circle, particularly someone who was given a job after others were summarily terminated, is making threats to others, this needs to be thoroughly investigated.
    Congratulations to Board President Tom Frankel for his clear display of a lack of spine. At the very least, he should insure that the board did not make a drastic mistake in hiring someone as disruptive as the new Executive Director. What was the Boards vetting process? Did they take the time to talk with employees who previously worked under Mr. Dresang? Did the board verify his work history? In other words, did the board fulfill it’s responsibility?
    I sincerely hope that the board will see fit to take suitable action to make this right in some way. Our community in general, and Jody in particular, deserves no less.

  10. Alan Miller

    Note:  another reason the board needs to get this out in the open is that if Yolo Hospice is sued, or there is a lingering threat of lawsuit, their fund raisng will go to NEAR ZERO, because no one wants to give to a non profit to defend against a lawsuit.  I know, I was executive director of a tiny non-profit that sued another tiny non-profit, and then got counter-sued by the other non-profit.  Members were not amused.

  11. CraigDresang

    For anyone in the community who is interested in learning more about this community treasure we know as Yolo Hospice, I personally invite you to come and tour our facility in Davis, meet me, and get to know our staff.  You don’t need to rely on internet publications or social media; you can see with your own eyes.  Our team of 150 employees and volunteers are some of the most compassionate, credentialed experts in end-of-life care.  In fact, they are the reason why our most recent Family Evaluation of Hospice Care (FEHC) survey, used by thousands of hospices across the country, shows that Yolo Hospice’s bereavement program has scored among the top in the nation and 20 points higher than the national average.  They are the reason our most recent physician satisfaction survey shows that 100 percent of 120 referring physicians are satisfied with the care provided to their patients. This team of professionals, which our community should be proud of, is the reason why our most recent Quality Assessment Goals, as established by the Affordable Care Act, have scored 100% in the three key areas of pain assessment, dyspnea, and having Advance Directives assessed.   As the first established hospice in the Sacramento Valley, Yolo Hospice has the longest regional track record as experts in caring for people who have a life-limiting illness . . .   not just in Davis, but in Yolo, Colusa, Sacramento, Solano and Sutter Counties.  Finally, I welcome anyone who is interested in end-of-life care or going on patient visits, to get yourself trained as a patient-care volunteer and experience our care and our organization firsthand.

    1. hpomerleau

      I glad Craig had posted The Quality Assessment Goals and Physicians Survey, those goals were met when Jody Norton was in charge of Patient Care Service.  It was under her watch that Yolo Hospice received those scores.

    2. Miwok

      Thank you, sir I read the press release. Welcome to Chicago, Yoloans.  Welcome to the forum, Mr. Dresang.

      The Vanguard was told by other sources that, when Craig Dresang arrived at Yolo Hospice, he installed his significant other, Joseph Drozd, as a “volunteer” receptionist and grant writer at the Davis offices.

      Lots of culture change. Lots of older employees take a lot of institutional knowledge when they leave, but when they are kicked out, it gets very sloppy. Too bad. New Directors are too eager to clean house, then flounder without the support of their staff. I hope this is not like that.

    3. hpierce

      Craig: don’t think anyone is questioning the mission/purpose/performance of the former/current staff.  The main things I know about Yolo Hospice was that our family doctor left his practice to join it (or its predecessor?) about 35 years ago.  He was definitely a 10+ in ability compassion, etc.  Have only heard very good things about Yolo Hospice.  My mother-in-law (and her family) was superbly served by a hospice program in Marin.  By the time my Dad was “hospice-identified”, due to patient load, a San Mateo area hospice couldn’t arrange to fully connect before he passed, But I was impressed with the way they tried to help Dad and my family.  Including offering services to the ‘survivors’.

      Please don’t blow it.

    4. Tia Will

      Mr. Dresang

      I do not think that there is anyone here calling into question the good work done by the Yolo Hospice or who doubts the satisfaction of the patients and the providers whom are served by this organization. This kind of high regard takes years, not a few months to build. I believe that what is in question is not the organization, but your choice to come in and abruptly, and seemingly without coaching, counseling or warning if this account is correct, began to fire long term employees who at least some feel were largely responsible for building the team and organization that you now felicitously find yourself heading.

      I realize that you have no obligation to cite a cause, but just because something is legal, does not make it ethical. It would seem to me that while you owe no explanation at all to the Vanguard or any other news venue, you certainly do owe an explanation to the people who are being fired about why that is the case.

      1. hpierce

        As a friendly suggestion, Tia, you may have wanted to stop after your second sentence, as the rest of it comes across chiding/accusatory and/or demanding, and frankly using perhaps too many adjectives/adverbs that I sincerely hope you won’t regret, after this “story” plays out.  Not sure if there is any “good/bad” in this (there may be, but that remains to be seen, in my opinion), but the primary value, in my opinion, is the purpose/goals/effectiveness of the organization, moving forward.

      2. sisterhood

        Dear Mr. Dresang,

        What Tia Will wrote. Agreed.

        I used to be a manager with the State of CA. We had a good union that set up guidelines for employee coaching for improvement.  I believe it was called progressive discipline. We went through several steps to coach for improvement before ever firing anyone. It was my experience that when a disciplinary procedure started, the employee either improved, or sought a job somewhere else. It’s too bad your organization does not have a similar program in place.

        It was interesting to read that Ms. Norton’s coworkers often sought her out as the experienced person they could get answers from. I wonder who has that role now? Anyone? As another reader wrote, I wonder about your patient care standards now.

  12. Alan Miller

    “You don’t need to rely on internet publications or social media; you can see with your own eyes. ”

    Wow.  I actually hate this person.

    This is the extreme perfect example of why I despise so-called “positive thinking”. Don’t address the issue, nothing ever happened, pure sunshine and light, bunnies dancing in a field with a rainbow.  Depressed employees not knowing why someone was fired?  Wondering if they are next?  Nope, teddy bear holding a pink heart, double rainbow.

    I was open to what would unfold.  This guy actually took the trouble to go to Davis Rent-a-Center and rent a heavy-duty compressor to force smoke up our respective asses, because mearly blowing it up there wasn’t enough.  I met enough of his type in the non-profit world and his non-response is enough for me to take a side.

    It’s like if the police department were accused of racial profiling and incidents were described and the police chief went before the city council and said, “We took a survey and most of the people in this town said we are doing a good job” and sat down.

    Good God sir, at least acknowledge that something is going on!

    1. Miwok

      I think you speak to something I have experienced through several parts of my career, if I can call my life a career.

      Management styles vary, and culture change, when a new Director, intent on establishing his authority, takes down the strongest person on the team, merely terrorizes the rest of the staff. Hiring new people in conflict with existing staff is then implemented, resulting in fear and distrust and fostering conflict at all levels.

      In addition, and I don’t know why, the Significant Other of the new Director is allowed to come in contact with the public, possibly violating HIPPA Laws. Did he pass the drug test and background test required of all employees, take training for this job? That smacks of nepotism, an ugly little trend for lots of “companies”.

      Mr Dresang seems to have come in, hired by a clueless Board, and brought his tyrannical management style with him. This is either an accidental oversight by the Board, or not.And the article claims they “know nothing”.

      Like the TV show Survivor, I recognize right away the longest or strongest employees are going to go first, scaring the others to toe the new line, wherever that is drawn. But if there were any policies in place before he came, he is not adhering to them now. And “no confidence in your abilities” is not a reason to let someone go. I think it might be the old “almost 20 years” tossing, that many big companies use to avoid pension costs and leaves a person near retirement age looking for work instead of retirement.

      I apologize for being so long with this. We should all recognize these methods. If you don’t you are lucky, or work for your family.

  13. DavisBurns

    While I have implemented at will employment policies, I like to stress that while the policy offers employees no protection from a bad employer, it also does not prevent an employer from treating employees well with medical insurance, vacations, honest evaluations and competitive salaries. Situations like this are why employees are better served by a union. If I worked there and wanted to stay, I would push for a union.  Don’t nurses have a union?  Seems like the remaining employees should go to the board of directors with some demands. With a union this situation wouldn’t be public…it would be under negotiation.

    This manager has made his bed.  We don’t know if there was good cause to terminate these employees and we won’t know.  Let’s see what he does now.  No one can unring this bell.

  14. Davis Progressive

    open letter to craig dresang:

    you’ve twice now engaged in what i would call hit and run responses – first you avoided even talking with david greenwald and instead sent a pro-forma statement.  then you post something as well.  several here have pointed out flaws in your thinking.

    i’m a lawyer, i understand the personnel issues.

    call up david greenwald, have him come to yolo hospice, let him ask you questions, if you can’t answer them fine, but i’ll bet there are a lot of questions that you can answer.

    i’m very concerned about what i’ve read here.  i don’t know jody norton personally, but everyone who i know who does know her, says glowing things about her.

    someone mentioned the lessons of fourth and hope, i don’t think hospice wants to go down that road.

    final point, nothing the vanguard reported suggests criticism of hospice – its missions or its service to the community.  however, it does suggest that perhaps there are some internal concerns.

    i lied, one more final point, get control over your significant other.  davis is too small a community to get away with that kind of childish behavior.


  15. Dave Hart

    Mr. Frankel told the Vanguard that Mr. Drozd, the significant other of the Executive Director, was not in the office and was never alone today.

    Why would the “hands-off” president of the Yolo Hospice Board be so knowledgeable about the presence of a volunteer on a given day when at the same time the Board doesn’t get involved in personnel issues?  Things like that that do not compute for me.  Why would a big-time high-powered guy like Mr. Dresang who was

    vice president for community development and programs for Midwest Palliative and Hospice Care Center in Chicago, a $30 million healthcare organization that ranked in the top 20 nationwide for quality inpatient care, and was recognized as one of Chicago’s top 100 workplaces..

    come to a little backwater like Davis, anyway?

    My annual donation to Yolo Hospice is absolutely red-flagged at this point.  I think the Yolo Hospice Board needs to be clear about what changes in goals, objectives or priorities have required such a significant change in who they have hired as Executive Director and his style of management. What was broken and what needed fixing?

    Exposing the facts around the separation of these long term employees has severely damaged the integrity of Yolo Hospice management and governance.  David, for the sake of Yolo Hospice, I hope you will pursue this story so we can get to some clarity about what Yolo Hospice is where it is headed.  The worst thing is for a cloud of uncertainty to remain.

    1. Anon

      Well said!  You brought up various issues that I was wondering about, e.g. why would someone so high-powered as Mr. Dresang come to Davis.  I noticed on his LinkedIn site In most cases Mr. Dresang doesn’t seem to have stayed anywhere longer than a few years (1-5).  Or the contradictory statements of the Yolo Hospice Board that they do not involve themselves in personnel matters, but then they do.

      Yolo Hospice is a nonprofit, and depends on donations.  I wonder how that is going to go, with this controversy hanging over its head?

  16. David Greenwald

    I agree that the worst thing is for a cloud of uncertainty to remain.  On the other hand, it seems that the response is to try to circle the wagons and lock down.  I’ve had a few people send me this confidentiality statement which I was told was distributed on February 13.


    Confidentiality is necessary of course, but look at exactly how restrictive this one is.

    “It is our policy that all information be considered confidential and will not be disclosed to any external party, volunteers, or to employees without a “need to know.””  So they can’t even share information between employees or volunteers about patients and treatment.  Or as one person noted to me, that means you can’t even talk about your day to your significant other as a way of decompressing.

    I’m happy to go to their facility and see things for myself if Yolo Hospice is open to it.

    1. Anon

      I encourage you to go.  However, I doubt that anyone will give you any useful information.  Everyone will be on their best behavior, and you will be shown only that which is beneficial to Mr. Dresang.

  17. hpomerleau

    So by making the employees signing a confidentially statement is Craig and Tom trying to control the truth, and put a spin on Yolo Hospice, such as the comment left earlier by Craig.  All personal that work in the medical field has to work under the state and federal laws called HIPPA.  So in effect they are trying to muffle their employees, so they can’t even say they had a crappy day or even a beautiful day.  So glad I have left such a hostile work environment. Oh by the way it must not apply to Craig, as in evidence the way he share info with his SO


  18. Davis Progressive

    i just think craig is out of his element here.  you can get away with this kind of stuff in chicago, in davis, when you’re new, you’ll get eaten alive.

    1. Anon

      I’m not so sure he got away with this elsewhere.  As Dave Hart pointed out, Mr. Dresang has a very impressive resume, yet comes here to a small town to take what some might consider a position with less prestige as that in a big city.  Additionally his LinkedIn resume shows that in general he never stays at any one place for very long.  Perhaps in his line of business that is typical, I don’t know.  But it certainly gives me pause to wonder.

    2. Dave Hart

      The Midwest Palliative and Hospice Care Center in Chicago, where Mr. Dresang was one of the highest paid executives and the only non-M.D. among the highest paid executives according to Guidestar, is a non-profit corporation.  But it is not a 501(c)(3) like Yolo Hospice.  I wonder if this has an impact on what kind of leadership or management qualities Mr. Dresang is bringing to Yolo Hospice.  I think we have to be open to the possibility that he is here to do a specific job based on the needs and desires of the current Yolo Hospice Board.

      Mr. Frankl implies that the Yolo Hospice Board of Directors has adopted a hands off or so-called Policy Governance Model (google it) where the Board has specific goals defined for the Executive Director and gives him the full authority to pursue those goals subject only to certain limitations that they impose.  It’s also possible that Mr. Frankl is not being honest about not being involved in personnel operations or other aspects of the Yolo Hospice management but is standing behind the paid shield.

      We just don’t know the answers to theses questions and all we can ask of David Greenwald is to keep pressing the issue.  If the Yolo Hospice Board values public trust as the basis for its continued success, it will have to convince us that it is open and transparent.

      The cloud of doubt created by Mr. Frankl’s claim of necessary management action requires a convincing response.  I believe the ball is in the Yolo Hospice Board’s court and only pressure by the Vanguard or Enterprise will challenge them to step up their game.

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