Valley View transfer would be illegal


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  • Michael Sussman (Chronicle file photo by Joshua Rosenau)



Editor's note: Attorney Michael Sussman of Chester gave the following statement at the April 4 public hearing held by the county legislature on whether to transfer the county-owned nursing home, Valley View, to a private Local Development Corporation.

Ladies and gentlemen:
We gather, as we did many times during the last administration, to consider the future of our county nursing home. This is no pedestrian gathering, no time for celebration of the significant progress Valley View has made in increasing efficiency and saving costs. This is not a celebration of the lives and achievements of its nearly 400 residents or of the increasing occupancy attained at Valley View during the last year. Nor are we here to congratulate the legislators who assiduously worked during the last two years to insure that Valley View not be sold.

We are here, yet again, to save Valley View from those who, I must say, hate government except when it serves their personal ambition.

More technically, section 215(5) of County Law requires a two thirds vote of this body — “taken by roll call” — before any county-owned land may be sold or the right or title thereto conveyed. Said sale must be to the highest responsible bidder following public advertisement. The lease of county land requires the same vote and may be for a period not exceeding five years and also must be made “only to the highest responsible bidder.”

And, the same law states that either sale or lease of county land must follow a determination that “any county real property is no longer necessary for public use.”

Can any of you honestly claim that Valley View is not necessary for public use? Of course it is. Steve Neuhaus openly campaigned last year and continues to claim that the County needs Valley View and, if this be so, the County must maintain accountability and responsibility for its operation.

The current draft resolution invokes section 1411 of the Not for Profit Organization law to create an LDC and to transfer the property to the LDC. An LDC, the law makes clear, has purposes which have nothing to do with operating a nursing home. Rather, section 1411 was intended to spur economic development and to create new jobs in concert with government. Section 1411 does NOT SUPERSEDE County Law or indicate that anything less than a 2/3 vote is required to enter into a 99-year lease or to sell the property. Indeed, the draft resolution cites to section 215 of the County law as its sponsors would violate it by proclaiming publicly that 11 votes can pass the draft resolution.

And, before an LCD can assume ownership or control of any governmentally owned property, the alienating unit of local government must determine that the subject property “is not required for use by the county in this case.” No intellectually honest resolution could so proclaim and the draft resolution never does so state; it never says that the property in question is not required for use by our county and it could not, for caring for those from which the county has taken so much by means of consideration remains a use integral to our county.

The resolution is a cartoon and it should be defeated. It is illegal and, if passed by a mere majority, it will not have the force of law and will be challenged and, I predict, defeated.

Michael H. Sussman, Esq.
Chester

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