SALINAS, Calif.— A report from the California state auditor, Elaine Howle, determined that the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System violated the state’s open meetings act, and granted compensation for executives in the upper range of compensation levels while operating without a compensation policy and with limited transparency. The auditor’s report pointed to the $4.9 million retirement and severance package paid to former CEO Sam Downing as an example of relatively high compensation paid by the 269-bed public hospital. The report also found weaknesses in controls, including 11 examples of the hospital doing business with entities in which board members or executives had an economic instance. The auditor recommends that formal compensation policies be developed and operational transparency be increased. In a written response, officials for Salinas Valley said they welcome and will follow the recommendations of the State Audits Bureau, but also outlined ways in which they disagree with its conclusions that they violated the open meetings act. Both the auditor’s report and the hospital noted that no concerns were raised regarding patient care. In January, Salinas’ chief medical officer and vice president, Dr. David Perrott, joined the California Hospital Association as senior vice president and CMO.