By Mahlon Meyer
Northwest Asian Weekly
An apology issued by Keiro Northwest to its former CEO Bridgette Takeuchi on March 1 included a statement that there was a “false narrative” released about her, claiming she was responsible for the closure of the community nursing home. But some familiar with a lawsuit she brought against the organization dispute aspects of the statement.
As of press time, her attorney had not responded to multiple emails and a phone message seeking clarification.
The press release appeared intended to mark the end of a disastrous closing chapter of the nursing home, which was founded 60 years ago as a shelter for aging Japanese Americans, but more recently fell on significant financial hard times.
Matt Chan, a former board member, said the closing of the nursing home and the disruptions to the lives of its residents—including the deaths of some, plus the loss of the cherished community asset—marked a “black spot” on the history of the Japanese American community.
“Hindsight is 20-20 and you can always go back and try to say who did what or should have done what,” he said. “But in the end, this should provide closure to some people.”
The statement was issued by the current Keiro board, which does not have a single overlapping member from the time when Takeuchi was the CEO.
Nevertheless, it states that she was against closing the Keiro nursing home and even sought “an alliance” to keep the place running.
“In 2019, Keiro Rehabilitation & Care Center closed. This was a result of many years of operational losses and sweeping changes in the nursing home industry. The decision to close was made by Keiro’s Board of Directors in April 2019, which was against the recommendation of Bridgette Takeuchi, Keiro’s then-CEO, who was stunned and devastated by the decision,” said the statement.
The press release included a statement that Takeuchi underwent emotional distress as a result.
“This caused her great emotional harm and made her feel unwelcome in our community to which she had a lifelong commitment,” it said.
It said the current board of directors hoped the acknowledgement “will start the healing process.”
Some, however, had reservations about the press release.
Dale Kaku, a board member during the time Takeuchi was CEO, said there had never been any discussions about finding fault with her and that there were no activities to put forward such a narrative.
“No one on the board ever blamed her during the board meetings I attended,” he said.
Chan, who came on the board during one of the most chaotic periods, when Keiro was facing multiple offers, reiterated this.
“I was not aware of any ‘false narratives’ while I was on the board,” he said.
Yvonne Kinoshita Ward, an attorney who was involved in the lawsuit on the part of one of the deponents, whom she was not authorized to name, questioned the characterization of Takeuchi’s role in the final months.
According to Ward, Takeuchi “torpedoed” an earlier deal that the board was contemplating with Aspen, which would have allowed the nursing home to stay open and community members to constitute 40% of a new board. Instead, through various machinations and alliances, Takeuchi pushed for a deal with Transforming Age, which had agreed to let the executive staff remain, said Ward.
As of press time, there was no way to independently corroborate or clarify these statements with Takeuchi’s attorney.
Ward expressed outrage that Takeuchi claimed emotional distress. She said Takeuchi took the job knowing the financial distress the organization was in and had vowed to right things.
“It’s annoying to read this press statement about her having great emotional harm. What about the emotional harm to the residents who lost their homes? Or what about the emotional harm to the community that lost the ability to keep their loved ones nearby and cared for? What about the emotional harm to all the employees who lost their jobs?”
Ward also said Takeuchi’s high salary seemed unjustified and that not every board member knew about it.
In a deposition, a former board vice president, Monica Nixon, said that in April 2019, the bylaws had been changed allowing a small compensation committee of four members to decide on Takeuchi’s salary.
Supporters claim Takeuchi’s salary was at least partly calculated based on her filling two positions, as well as closing the community during an incredibly chaotic time.
Meanwhile, the current board is hoping to fill Nikkei Manor, the assisted living community run by Keiro. While the community had a waiting list before the pandemic, it was eradicated by COVID-19.
Still, Nikkei Manor is still able to function solely off of revenue from residents and donations, provided all the rooms are full, according to Carol Kessler, the current chair.
“That is why we are working so hard now to fill them,” she said in a follow-up email.
Kessler initially responded to questions about the $11 million that Keiro Northwest had garnered when it sold the nursing home property to a private real estate company, Shelter Holdings, in 2019.
Despite rampant speculation and worry in the community that the money would either be absorbed by Keiro, or used to keep Nikkei Manor afloat, she reassured that it had been put to good fiduciary use.
She said, “By using the word ‘fiduciary,’ we, the Board, would use the investment money to shore up Nikkei Manor’s finances when needed.”
Mahlon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.