Multiple sources confirmed with This Is Reno there are numerous allegations facing Renown and the hospital’s now former-CEO Tony Slonim. Slonim was fired for cause yesterday as part of an investigation.
Allegations range from sexual harassment, unethical behavior by top executives, financial mismanagement and an organizational culture rife with dysfunction and employee mistreatment. The investigation has not concluded, two sources said.
“Allegations against Slonim were proved to be factual from a multitude of sources,” a current employee told This Is Reno. “[Hospital] financial losses [by the hospital are] from executive overhead and financial folly.”
Most of Renown’s senior executives make more than $500,000 a year. Slonim, according to public filings, made $1.7 million in 2020.
Renown is a non-profit hospital, which under Affordable Care Act rules must serve the public interest and provide broad community benefit.
Of a number of sources reached today by This is Reno, only one former employee spoke highly of Renown. They wanted to remain anonymous, however.
“I was shocked,” they said of the allegations reported by This Is Reno. “I left on good terms.”
Some said, simply, Slonim was not a good guy to work with.
“He is an egotistical prick,” one local official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “He is not community minded. He is narcissistic. He has not been a partner with our community the entire time he was at the helm.”
A current employee said the allegations against the hospital should not detract from the good work of Renown employees and does not affect the ability for people to get good healthcare.
“Employees work really hard and have suffered during the pandemic,” they said “The hospital is facing the same labor issues as elsewhere in Reno. People here have a passion for healthcare, and the ability to provide good care has nothing to do with the CEO.”
They said the firing of Slonim by the board was “a strong move – because the issues at the hospital have been brewing for a long time under Slonim.”
However, they said Renown’s board of directors needs to be held to account.
“The allegations of financial corruption and treatment of … Renown employees are ongoing,” they said. “Something the community is not broadly aware of is the attrition of highly knowledgeable and skilled senior executives that have left in the past year. They were put in a position to voluntarily resign or were fired because they didn’t agree with the CEO.”
Unnamed Renown officials denied the allegations.
“Certain allegations were brought to the attention of the Board,” somebody at Renown wrote in an email. “We take all allegations seriously. Upon learning of the allegations, the audit and compliance committee of the board of directors launched an independent investigation with the assistance of outside counsel.
“All other allegations made were investigated, found to be without cause, and all other Renown staff members were cleared of any allegations made.”
Hospital facing lawsuits
Ty Windfeldt was a chief operating officer at Renown for years. He was fired last year for no apparent reason. That’s according to a lawsuit he filed last fall against Renown, which, the lawsuit claims, is restricting him from working under Renown’s non-compete clause.
“In August 2021, Renown terminated Plaintiff ‘not for cause,’ but refused to provide any information as to the reason,” Windfeldt’s lawsuit states. “When Plaintiff requested more information from Renown’s Chief Human Resources Officer, she stated she ‘was not involved in any of this and [had] no background.’”
The lawsuit also claims Windfeldt’s personal belongings were seized by Renown and have not been returned despite requests from his attorney.
“When Renown terminated Plaintiff, it insisted he depart from Renown’s offices without gathering all of his personal items, including a number of personal files and documents – including important files relating to various community boards on which Plaintiff serves – that Plaintiff had stored in his office,” the complaint alleges. “These files were Plaintiff’s personal property and Renown has no right to retain them.”
The McDonald Carano law firm is defending Renown in the case and denied any wrongdoing by the hospital. Renown attorneys filed a counterclaim against Windfeldt in January, saying he violated his non-compete contract with the hospital.
“Windfeldt has competed and continues to compete with the business of Renown Health in direct violation of the terms of Non-Compete 2,” their complaint alleges.
Windfeldt’s lawsuit also alleges Renown has restricted access to his retirement funds.
Another pending case involves 54 anesthesiologists who sued after the hospital terminated its contract with the doctors’ managing company. They are also alleging Renown’s non-compete clause prevents them from working.
Limited recourse for complaints
Sources said taking complaints higher up resulted in threats of termination or a lack of response by high-level Renown officials. One person claimed employees were threatened with termination if they spoke with Renown’s board of directors.
“Tony Slonim threatened the hospitalist group with termination if we spoke to the board of directors,” a source alleged.
Two executives, shown to still be employed on Renown’s website, were named by different sources as being key players in what they said was corruption.
“[Renown HR Director] Michelle Sanchez-Bickley needs to be exposed,” a source said. “She is as corrupt as [Chief Marketing Officer] Suzanne Hendery. The two of them have so much power. The poor HR staff … has so much dirt on all the corruptness [sic] but could never do anything about it.”
“Suzanne Hendery and Michelle Sanchez are the most unethical execs at Renown,” another source said. “They fired people unjustly, covered up for bad executives and have far too much power. Tony Slonim was aware of all of this. I hope both those women also get terminated.”
Two people said mass layoffs last year were followed by re-hiring many of those positions.
“Look into the layoffs that happened in July. Over 200 people [were] laid off and many of those positions have come back,” one person said.
Another said, “Since the July … layoffs, most of those positions have been brought back which can be a legal HR nightmare.”
Former employees under gag orders
Former employees have been forced to sign confidentiality agreements in order to get severance package benefits. That’s why sources will not comment on the record – or at all. Neither Windfeldt, nor his attorney, would provide comment for this story.
“[Slonim] made them all sign gag orders. To get their severance, they had to agree not to say anything,” a source said.
“He was widely despised.”
“There are others that are in the Renown golden handcuffs – either currently in litigation fighting for their retirement pay, or are currently in separation agreements – not allowing them to speak any wrong doings they were privy to, in exchange for their paychecks,” another source said.
“There are several that are in current separation agreements with Renown,” a source said. “If they ‘talk’ to ANYONE they will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars (their agreements are tied to the executive’s retirement funds for [the] duration of agreement – typically 2 years) — this is why people are staying quiet!”
PR efforts emphasized the positive
Renown’s public-facing communications emphasized a positive image of the hospital – and Slonim. The CEO was for years propped up as an “influencer” and TedX speaker.
Renown’s marketing officer, Hendery, interviewed last year for a health marketing website, commented on what she called Slonim’s “well crafted tweets with selfies.”
“If you look at the Twitter feeds of Tony Slonim, CEO of Renown Health @RenownCEOTonyMD and of the organization itself @RenownHealth you’ll see well crafted tweets with selfies, candid photos and replies (yes REPLIES!). It is more than your standard one-way corporate tweets,” she said. “We have certainly seen anecdotal evidence. When Dr. Slonim goes to an event and speaks, complete strangers will come up at the end and ask if they can take a selfie with him.”
Hendery claimed the selfie tweets garnered the hospital “international recognition” for something “no one paid attention to before.”
Two sources said the international branding efforts were expensive and offensive to many employees.
“The vision of the CEO was to build his rep on the national stage, and Hendery was behind that,” a current employee said. “No expense was spared, and people found that offensive.”
Numerous online comments made after Slonim’s firing yesterday were celebratory. Some people accused the hospital of paying for Slonim’s awards and public recognition.
“He was widely despised,” a local official said.
Slonim’s Twitter account no longer exists.
If you have information about Renown and this investigation, we would love to hear from you. Contact us here: https://thisisreno.com/contact/
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.