December 28, 2023
Ward Kanowsky, Pleasanton
Jennifer Esteen, candidate for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in the upcoming March election against 22-year incumbent Nate Miley, was just removed from her role on the Alameda Health System Board of Trustees, a position she held for three years, where she was the only registered nurse. Miley voted to remove Esteen, rather than recusing himself from the decision. The Board of Supervisors reappointed all other appointees to the health system - each of whom are middle-aged males, including the person appointed to replace Esteen. Her removal came the day after she made a public statement supporting a ceasefire in Gaza. While a direct connection between the public statement and her removal may be conjecture, the optics are bad in the current environment.
It’s unfair and unethical that Esteen wasn’t reappointed. Miley should have recused himself from the vote since he and Esteen are candidates for the same office in an upcoming election. Unfortunately, Miley and the Board of Supervisors are not bound to a code of ethics that would provide guidance for such apparent conflicts, a situation that has existed for nearly a decade. In June 2023, the Alameda County Grand Jury recommended for the second time since 2015 that the Board of Supervisors adopt an ethics policy. Their report stated, “Alameda County’s lack of an ethics policy and code of conduct specific to the County indicates that ethical government is not a priority.” Miley’s vote to remove Esteen bears out this statement.
In a press release following her dismissal, Esteen stated, “The supervisor knows my voice is desperately needed and my work as Vice President of the Board was leading to major positive changes. What feels even worse is that I am the youngest member of the Board, still working full time as a public health nurse and psych nurse which affords me a diversity of opinion that is sorely needed and was often commended by my fellow trustees, staff and members of the public.”
The “heart” of the Alameda Health System mission is “Caring, Healing, Teaching, Serving All” – continuing to drive innovation, change and growth as it promotes wellness and eliminates health care disparities. Achieving this starts at the top with leadership from the Board of Trustees. When young, Black, queer nursing professional women like Esteen are removed from the boardroom, how can diverse marginalized communities receive the healthcare they need and deserve?