Bakersfield

Clinica Sierra Vista chief abruptly resigns

Brian O. Harris, the chief executive of Clinica Sierra Vista, resigned from the Bakersfield-based, Valleywide nonprofit chain of healthcare clinics, the organization announced Friday.

Harris replaced Steve Schilling, the clinic’s long-time CEO that led it from a sleepy clinic in the farm town of Weedpatch to one of the region’s largest health providers, in 2018.

The news was first reported by The Bakersfield Californian.

Weeks before his resignation, Harris oversaw two rounds of layoffs consisting of nearly 70 people, including some top-level managers at its Bakersfield-based headquarters.

The layoffs, attributed to instability caused by coronavirus, was endemic of a tumultuous tenure for the two-year chief executive.

More than one year ago, John Means – a Clinica board member – resigned from his post in protest, describing Harris’ first year as “incredibly chaotic.”

In his first year, Harris eliminated a number of key medical services at its rural clinics, including cardiology, podiatry, gastroenterology, and chiropractic services. Clinica also eliminated radiology services at a number of clinics.

But chief among Means’ complaints was that Harris forced out or fired top administrators in the organization and paid tens of thousands in various severance packages coupled with non-disparagement agreements.

After firing senior managers at Clinica, the nonprofit’s former chief financial officer filed an age discrimination suit against the organization and Harris, claiming he wanted someone younger in the position.

In prior positions, such as leading the Klamath Open Door Clinic in Oregon, Harris was accused of employment and sexual harassment – including claims he made offensive remarks about women, hired and fired women because of their looks, engaged in sexual relationships with employees he supervised, and fired Petersen for an improper reason.

Yet, in its statement issued Friday, Clinica offered no specific reason for Harris’ resignation.

“During his time with Clinica, Brian helped champion the health-care needs for thousands of residents in the Central Valley while focusing on the most under-served in our community,” Clinica Sierra Vista said in a release. “His efforts, along with our providers, doctors, nurses and support staff have allowed Clinica Sierra Vista to continue to be a leader in healthcare to the most vulnerable among us.”

Before succeeding Schilling as chief executive of Clinica Sierra Vista, Harris’ prior post was as Chief Executive Officer for the North Carolina-based Rural Health Group.

Clinica’s Chief Human Resource Officer Stacy Ferreira will replace Harris as interim CEO.

Alex Tavlian
Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.