1-night stay for 5 in Hanford? Priceless, Bob.

John Taylor: February 28, 20080 Comments

I told you we'd hear more. Bob Sillen got fired earlier this year as the almost unfettered overseer of reforming California's dangerous prison health care system. And now the state Office of Inspector General (OIG) has reviewed his (and his staff's) spending habits.

Looks like the easiest to explain (though Sillen apparently couldn't say who went or why) was a bill for $432 for one-night's stay for five staffers in Hanford. (What, no ice cream at Superior?)

The OIG found nothing illegal in the spending, though some of it was out of line with state policy and the lack of explicit receipts was viewed as troubling.

The findings that did make headlines (LA Times and San Jose Mercury News -- the town where Sillen used to run Valley Medical Center): 

  • 29 of the 45 staff hired by Sillen earned salary and compensation of more than $100k.

  • Four of those staff, including his communications director, earned more than the $225,000 annual salary of the official who runs the entire 50,000-employee prison system.

Sillen had a take-no-prisoners (sorry) approach to the politics of prison reform. He told state lawmakers last year:  "It's going to cost what it's going to cost, and it's going to cost more than the body politic is going to want to spend."

One physician I know in a prominent prison post told me that Sillen recognized how bad bad was, boosted salaries of medical staff and promised to make some of the significant infrastructure improvements needed. (By contrast, his replacement, lawyer J. Clark Kelso, who has already saved $4 million by closing an office and removing Sillen staffers, said his approach is to determine the baseline for adequate prisoner health services.)

No question that some politicians relished the official fingers being jabbed into Sillen's face. The Times quoted state Sen. Gloria Romero: "We can't live in the lap of luxury to correct corrections. ... I am really disappointed that the man who was brought in to clean up the (medical) system literally cleaned up (for) himself."

No current comment from Sillen. But, mark my words again, there will come a time.

Previous blogs on Sillen:

"Bye Bob. I know we'll hear more" at


and "The Brass knuckles are real" at