Since Candace Adam-Medefind took control of Healthy House, how much public funding for the non-profit has ended up in the campaign coffers of Adam Gray, son of Ms. Adam-Medefind and the Democratic Party candidate for state Assembly in the 21st district? The employees claim she is paying her husband, former Chairman of the Merced County Democratic Central Committee Mark Medefind for janitorial and PR services to Healthy House. Medefind claims he has donated his time to the non-profit. Is she diverting funds from Healthy House to him to work on his stepson's campaign? Or his the money going even farther afield, to her brother, Robin Adam, veteran local political fixer?
Badlands Journal editorial board
Merced nonprofit Healthy House an unhealthy work environment?
Workplace allegations surface
By YESENIA AMARO
MERCED -- Five employees of Healthy House within A MATCH Coalition, a Merced nonprofit, have filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over working conditions there.
More than 20 workers have signed a petition outlining a series of complaints about how the organization is run. They told the Sun-Star they are calling for the resignation of Executive Director Candice Adam-Medefind and office manager John Asenjo.
Adam-Medefind declined to comment when contacted by the Sun-Star. Asenjo didn't return phone calls seeking a statement.
The workers' petition was submitted to Healthy House's board of directors earlier this month. Employees say the board failed to take the issues seriously.
Board members said the concerns are being investigated. Since the issues were raised, two Healthy House board members have resigned.
Adam-Medefind joined Healthy House as executive director in 2010. The nonprofit, which has about 40 employees, had $1.14 million in annual revenue and $990,128 in expenses in 2009, according to the most recent financial records filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
As of 2010, Adam-Medefind's annual salary was $67,500.
Healthy House's funding comes from grant money. Its top funders include Mercy Medical Center, the California Endowment and the California Wellness Foundation, financial records show.
It was founded about 14 years ago to improve the health of people throughout Merced by providing interpretative services at medical facilities and trying to close the gap between Hmong beliefs and Western medicine.
In their complaint to the board employees say Adam-Medefind treats Healthy House as her own business. They raised questions about business practices, monitoring of vacation and sick leave, and conflicts of interest.
According to the complaint, Adam-Medefind has a conflict of interest because she hired her husband, Marc Medefind, to clean the office and write news releases for the nonprofit.
Marc Medefind on Wednesday said he's always donated his time to Healthy House.
"I've never been paid by the Healthy House," he said.
Medefind called the complaints about his wife "ridiculous" and said she has done a lot for the community.
"I just hope that Healthy House can continue to be healthy," he added.
Employees told the Sun-Star they don't feel comfortable in the work environment that's been created.
Sharan Karrha, a bookkeeper at Healthy House, told the Sun-Star the situation has taken a toll on her health. She said she can't sleep at night because of the unethical things she has to do at work.
"As you can see, this is really hard for me because I have to do things that are against my own will," she said with tears in her eyes.
In their EEOC complaint, employees allege age and gender discrimination, including favoritism to a full-time male employee.
Elva Pena, a Spanish interpreter and administrative assistant to Adam-Medefind, told the Sun-Star that she has been questioned about the time she arrives at work but the male employee hasn't.
James Ryan, spokesman for the EEOC, declined to comment.
"By federal law, possible complaints made to the EEOC are strictly confidential and officials are prohibited from commenting on them, furnishing any information on them or even confirming or denying the existence of such a charge," he said in an email. "Only when and if we file suit are we allowed to furnish any information."
The Sun-Star obtained copies of the complaints filed with the EEOC. One of the employees received written confirmation from the agency that it had received her complaint.
The two Healthy House board members who resigned were May Vangay on July 10 and board chairwoman Martha Acevedo on July 21.
Acevedo, who declined to comment on the complaints, said she resigned because of health issues.
Katherine Grave, a board member, on Wednesday said the board is "looking into the concerns of the employees and has initiated an independent investigation and has also retained legal counsel to advise the board."
"We are not able to discuss this matter any further as it involves personnel matters that are entitled to the right of privacy. We ask that the privacy rights of our employees be respected during this process," she said.
Flip Hassett, executive director of United Way of Merced, said he's known Adam-Medefind for several years and that she's been involved with homeless issues. "She's very passionate about different issues that affect the community," he said.
He said he was distressed to hear about the allegations. "It's quite damaging to the organization," he said.
Hassett said he was aware the issues have been raised by many employees.
He said his organization has worked with several Healthy House employees. I'm "very happy with the services that they gave us. That's why this is so distressing," he said.
It's important to go through a process to make sure that all the issues are investigated and appropriately addressed, he said. "It needs to be done very quickly," he said.
Board member Carolyn Vara said the claims are personnel issues and believed nothing should be made public now since the complaint involves information that's confidential. "We have not ignored this," she said.
She declined to comment on the resignations of Vangay and Acevedo.
Pia Moua, who has been appointed but not yet approved to be on the board of directors, said since he's new he's not familiar with Adam-Medefind or the staff and doesn't know much about what's going on.
Moua said he's aware of the complaints some employees sent to the board. He said if the complaints are true, Adam-Medefind should step down.
"If she is what they say on the paper, I don't think it's right," he said. "If that's the case, it would be nice for her to resign."
Palee Moua, director of cultural services at Healthy House, said the nonprofit was founded in 1998 by Marilyn Mochel, a registered nurse.
The purpose of the organization was to help improve the health and well-being of people in the community, she said.
"We found out that we have a lot of health disparities in Merced County," Moua said.
The nonprofit provides services in seven languages.
The organization also started the nationally-known Partners in Healing program. It allows Hmong spiritual healers, known as shamans, to conduct healing ceremonies when requested by Hmong patients or family members.