by Virginia McCullough


The elderly residents of Marin County should be the best cared for in the state of California.  The Marin Community Foundation has more than $1 billion in assets and a very well paid staff whose responsibility is to assure the senior citizens of Marin are cared for comfortably in accordance with the express wishes of Beryl Buck whose 1975 bequest of less then $10 million established the Leonard and Beryl Buck Trust.  It was that gift that became the funding corner-stone of the Marin Community Foundation. 

Beryl Buck's will states, "I give, devise and bequeath the entire residue of my estate to the San Francisco Foundation (SFF)."  The will further specifies that the income from the trust  "..shall always be held for exclusively non-profit, charitable, religious, or educational purposes in providing for the needy in Marin County, California, and for other non-profit charitable, religious or educational purposes in the county." 

A nurse by profession, Beryl Buck remained concerned for those incapacitated by age or unable to care for themselves due to illness.  Her correspondence expressed her sympathy for others.  In one of her letters she wrote, "I would like to extend help toward the problems of the aged, not only for the indigent, but for those whose resources cannot begin to provide adequate care."

Her hopes for helping others less fortunate then herself should have been easily realized as the estate multiplied in value in 1979 when the family's oil company merged into Texaco.  The Buck Trust had grown to close to $400 million by the mid 1980's.  However the manner and direction of who received money from the Buck Trust and how it could be spent is controlled by a "limiting" clause in the will.  That clause stipulated that the money could only be used for "charitable, religious or educational purposes in providing care for the needy in Marin County."

By 1984 the immense growth of the Buck Trust led the San Francisco Foundation to sue to break the limiting clause so that other counties could share in what had become the fourth largest charitable trust in the United States.  The move to circumvent the will's limiting clause was fought by the Marin Council of Agencies, the Marin County government and the California State Attorney General's Trust Division, and their united defense prevailed.  In 1986 the now-billion-dollar Buck Trust was removed from the administration of the San Francisco Foundation and, following a bitterly fought court battle, it was turned over to the newly created Marin Community Foundation.

In 2002 the Foundation was severely criticized for lining the pockets of the environmental elite or "Greenlining" and ignoring the poor minorities.  PhD Thomas Peters, the president and chief executive officer of the Marin Community Foundation responded by saying, "The so-called allegation is so patently false and so easily refuted by the facts that one questions the true motivation of this criticism.  Easily 75 percent of the money we granted over the past year could be classified as pointed toward individuals and families where economic, social and linguistic needs are paramount."

The Marin Community Foundation is only one segment of Marin society that has a mandate to help the aged "whose resources cannot begin to provide adequate care."  The other immense tax supported bureaucracy in Marin County established for this purpose is headed up by another PhD, Larry Meredith.  Mr. Meredith is the director of the Department of Health and Human Services for the county of Marin.  This public health agency receives both state and federal funding.  Under Mr. Meredith's command, 700 full and part-time employees enjoy an operating budget of $115 million.  They operate out of 15 offices located throughout the county.  It is interesting to note that the operating budget changes little whether or not any resident of Marin County is helped in any manner by the agency.  Click. County of Marin, Health & Human Services, Division of Aging and Click. County of Marin, Division of Aging - Programs

For the past month there has been very intense media coverage about 82-year-old Sarah Nome, a lifetime resident of Marin County.  Kaiser Hospital has been attempting to evict Ms. Nome from a hospital bed at San Rafael's Kaiser's Hospital where she has remained for the past year incurring, according to Kaiser spokesmen, $3,200 a day in hospital bills.  Kaiser has stated in published articles that it has placed a lis pendens on Sarah Nome's home as a guarantee it can recover the almost $1 million dollar bill she has incurred. 

It seems reasonable to assume that Kaiser would have requested some assistance from the Marin Community Foundation and/or the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services regarding the situation it finds itself in with patient Sarah Nome.  In light of the fact that these two entities are very well funded and their mission statement includes helping the aged and the needy, one would assume that Thomas Peters and Larry Meredith would be more than happy to help find the proper housing and in-house care for Ms. Nome.

On March 15, 2005 this reporter asked Kaiser's Director of Media Relations Rich Malastina if Kaiser had requested assistance from the two Marin service agencies.  He said that Kaiser had repeatedly requested such assistance.  Mr. Malastina also stated that although they had made calls for assistance many times over the past year since Kaiser had discharged Sarah Nome, they only received a return call in the past two weeks with no specific offer of help. 

The mainstream media has constantly implied that it is Sarah Nome who is costing the taxpayers money by exploiting her disabilities brought on by age.  Ms. Nome has never objected to leaving the Kaiser hospital bed in which she has lain for the past year, but she wants to stay in the county in which she has lived and paid taxes all of her life.  The mainstream media is just dead wrong to place the blame on 82-year-old Sarah Nome instead of where it rightfully belongs -- on the very backs of director Meredith and president Peters who are paid very high salaries to provide services to the elderly of Marin County.  It is their responsibility and they have the dollar ability to alleviate the situation.  They have not done so and therefore, they have betrayed the mission statement of the very agencies they head.

Marin Superior Court Commissioner Harvey Goldfine who has been conducting recent hearings on this issue mentioned care facilities that could accommodate Sarah Nome.  They are located in Petaluma, Oakland or San Jose, California.  The counties incurring the responsibility for Ms. Nome would then be Sonoma County, Alameda County, or Santa Clara County.  Not one of these counties has the financial surpluses that Marin County possesses.  Why should Marin County shift the liability for its senior citizens onto other counties in the state of California?

Numerous publications have hinted repeatedly at the reason.  Sarah Nome is a bright, well spoken, long standing resident whose activism has made people in powerful positions in the County of Marin very uncomfortable over the years.  The March 18, 2005 article in the Marin Independent Journal by Nancy Isles Nation quoted former San Anselmo Town Council member Judith Hodgens as saying she (Sarah Nome)  has run for political office in the town of San Anselmo and while Ms. Nome was still mobile and living in San Anselmo she cost the town all kinds of money.  Of Sarah Nome she said, "The word gadfly does not even apply, she was a pain in the neck a lot of the time."  Judith Hodgens also said Sarah Nome ran for Town Council twice and once filed at the last minute in an uncontested race thereby forcing the town to pay for the $15,000 cost of an election.  Judith Hodgens triumphantly stated that once she became mayor she was able to gavel Sarah Nome down most of the time.

By facilitating the removal of bed ridden Sarah Nome from the county that contains all of her memories, perhaps Marin County is simply trying to gavel Sarah Nome down one last time.

by Virginia McCullough © 3/21/05