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Republican Eric Hovde’s company owned nursing home plagued by mismanagement and neglect

The California Department of Social Services reports that residents at the facility missed meals and were put at risk of contracting COVID.

By Jesse Valentine - May 17, 2024
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Madison, Wis. businessman and Republican U.S. Senate candidate, Eric Hovde speaks, Tuesday April 2, 2024, at a former President Donald Trump rally in Green Bay, Wis. The Wisconsin Senate race between Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Republican Eric Hovde is setting up as one of the most competitive and expensive Senate races in the country. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

A nursing home owned by Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde’s company is being sued for elder abuse and wrongful death. Now, new details are emerging about a myriad of past problems with the facility, including failing to properly vet employees or report missing residents.

The lawsuit, which was first reported by The New York Times, concerns Claremont Hacienda, a California-based assisted living facility partially owned by Sunwest Bank. Hovde has served as chairman and CEO of Sunwest Bank since 2016. The suit alleges that in 2022, a 94-year-old woman living at the facility suffered a series of falls, did not receive proper care, and ultimately died as a result of neglect.

A trial is set for March 2025. Sunwest Bank is named as a co-defendant in the suit.

A review of records from the California Department of Social Services reveals that Claremont Hacienda has received several citations for a variety of infractions.

On Oct. 14, 2023, a routine inspection found that mandatory criminal background checks had not been performed on two employees. The employees were ordered to vacate the premises until the screenings were complete. Two weeks later, the facility received another citation when a follow-up inspection found one employee still lacked proper clearance.

A follow-up inspection on Dec. 13 found that 16 employees had not been fingerprinted, which is the first step of the required criminal background check.

The Claremont Hacienda presents as a memory-care clinic, specializing in care for older adults with Alzhimers, dementia, and other memory-impairment conditions. The Oct. 14 inspection found that several employees hadn’t completed the mandatory 40-hour training required for working with individuals with these ailments.

Subsequent inspections on Oct. 27, Nov. 13, Nov. 28, and Dec. 13 found that several employees had still not received the proper training.

The facility received another citation in March 2024 for having an insufficient number of staffers. Four employees told the California Department of Social Services that on several occasions residents were not fed meals as a result of the understaffing. This revelation could shed light on earlier incidents at the facility.

As a part of the March 2024 interviews, it was revealed that in August 2022, a dementia resident fled the facility. The same resident escaped again the following month. In both instances, staffers located the resident and returned them to the facility.

Neither incident was reported to the state or adequately documented. 

In August 2022, the facility received a citation for failing to take proper precautions to prevent COVID. In one incident, a staffer returned to work five days after testing positive for COVID without taking a follow-up test.

Claremont Hacienda was also hit with multiple OSHA citations in 2022 and forced to pay hundreds of dollars in fines. Infractions include failing to implement a violence prevention protocol and not maintaining an injury incident log.

Spokespeople for Hovde’s campaign told The New York Times the wrongful death lawsuit was meritless and that it was farcical to hold Hovde responsible for any alleged mismanagement of the facility. But Hovde has also cited Sunwest Bank’s work with nursing homes on the campaign.

“Look at the nursing homes,” Hovde said in an April 4 interview with WISN. “I do lending into the nursing home community.”

According to quarterly financial reports, the Claremont Hacienda has generated $7.3 million in revenue for Sunwest Bank since 2022. A spokesperson for Sunwest Bank did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

Hovde previously ran for U.S. Senate in 2012 but failed to advance past the Republican primary. If he secures the nomination this time, he will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in the general election. 

Democratic groups are already taking aim at Hovde’s ties to the Claremont Hacienda. An ad from the WinSenate PAC opens with the line “sick of people preying on the elderly?” before going on to cite the wrongful death suit.


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