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Public hospital CEO got severance 3 years before he retired

Los Angeles Times, May 20, 2011

A Salinas, CA public hospital district, already under fire for granting its outgoing chief executive $3.9 million in retirement payments, also gave him nearly $1 million as part of an unusual severance agreement, according to records obtained by The Times. The payment fattened what was already considered one of the more generous public pensions ever given in California. Its disclosure prompted the state Assembly earlier this month to order an audit of the hospital district's finances. The Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System board gave Samuel Downing a cash payment of $947,594 in 2008, according to a hospital report on his compensation. The money came from a special severance fund set aside for when Downing ended his employment with the agency. But the board decided to award him the money while he was still CEO.