What I didn't find out at the LDC meeting
By Mary McDonough, Valley View family member
This synopsis is written by Mary Ann McDonough, based on notes taken at the July 2, 2014, Local Development Corporation (LDC) meeting and is to the best of my understanding, what took place at the meeting.
Before the LDC meeting officially began, there was conversation between a few members of the LDC Board and a man named Josh. (I did not catch his last name.) Josh was from Marcus and Millichap. Josh referenced the need for Chairperson Paul Ernenwein "to sign checks" before Josh left to return to Chicago. Josh went on to detail his stay in a Middletown Motel, near the Outback, where he dined. He also stated, "You got some crazy days out of me. It'll be good."
The only press present at the meeting was a woman from the Mid-Hudson News. She had a microphone up at the LDC meeting table. There were no cameras.
Before the meeting began, I asked about a sign in sheet for those of the public that wanted to speak. The public was told they would be given three minutes and a sign in sheet was provided.
All seven members of the LDC Board were present and Justin Miller, counsel to the board, sat at the meeting table. Also present were Neil and Colleen from Orange County Budget. Two Orange County legislators, Roseanne Sullivan and Shannon Wong, were also in attendance. There were between 10 and 12 members of the public in attendance.
The public was given the opportunity to speak before the LDC Board began to discuss their meeting agenda. It is significant to note, the public at no time had access to the LDC agenda. I spoke first. The title of my presentation was "Where and When is the LDC Meeting; My Two week Quest to Find Out!" This I have already shared on Citizens for Valley View Facebook Page and at the July 3 Orange County Legislative meeting. I introduced my talk with the fact I was not going to speak about the legality or the illegality of this LDC Board meeting. I was going to leave that up to the courts! I ended my three minutes by stating it was unacceptable that the notice of the meeting was only placed on the county website, one day before the meeting, and that the county executive's office was giving out meeting specifics in direct contradiction to the meeting notice they had on their own website. I advised this must change and asked the members of the LDC Board to do anything they could to bring about the change that would provide for more openness, transparency and access to the LDC minutes, meeting notices etc.
Mr. Lyons spoke next. He told the LDC Board that they should stop meeting. He identified his concern that if the LDC Board continued to meet, there was a good possibility the census at Valley View would drop. He went on to identify two members of the LDC Board, Jim Burpoe and Darcie Miller, who are county employees and thereby getting paid by the county for the time they spend on the board. Mr. Lyons made many other salient points about Valley View and the improved financials. Mr. Lyons's last point spoke to the Mission Statement of the LDC made by Shawn Griffin of Harris Beach. I am not speaking of the official LDC Mission Statement but instead the one the Times Herald-Record quoted Mr. Griffin as stating the lawsuits, including the most recently one filed by CSEA, "has hardened the resolve of the County and the LDC to sell the nursing home." Mr. Lyons asked the LDC to get rid of Harris Beach and get objective information and legal advice.
A Valley View employee spoke. I am sorry I do not have her name. She questioned why the venue of the meeting was changed from Valley View? She said many Valley View residents were disappointed because they wanted to attend the LDC meeting. She wanted to make known these residents would request future meetings be held at Valley View, like was previously promised.
Ben Weiss spoke to the only notice of this July 2 LDC meeting that was made public. It said the meeting was to discuss "other matters." Mr. Weiss questioned what other matters could be unless one knew what the original matters were and we the public did not know because we were never made privy to the LDC agenda and the original matters listed in that agenda. Mr. Weiss identified that this LDC Board had to power to disband and that to do anything but disband was a "breech of good democratic process."
Once the public comment period ended, LDC Chair Paul Ernenwein personally apologized for the misinformation surrounding this LDC meeting and promised to do better. The minutes of the May 29 LDC Board Meeting were approved. The public had no idea what was contained in those minutes. We were told they would be on the website and only found out later there is no LDC website. Instead, there is the Orange County website and there is an LDC page on that website.
The first full issue discussed was the Draft LDC Mission Statement, which again the public did not have a copy of or access to. LDC Board member, Nick Ercoline, asked that the statement be amended to state "upon such evaluation to retain, lease or sell." ( This Amended Mission Statement is in conflict with the Harris Beach "hardened the resolve to sell" goal.)
The next issue was the RFP, Request for Proposal, response for the sale of Valley View. According to Josh (Marcus and Millichap) from Chicago, there were nine offers received. All nine offers "adhered to the RFP." Josh called it a "very positive" response." Josh further explained the offers expire in 120 days unless the parties "keep the offers active." He further stated the soonest the transfer could take place would be Dec. 31, 2014. He indicated that a contract could be in place by Dec. 31 but it could take anywhere between 6-12 months to complete the transfer. Board Member Nick Ercoline stated board members did not see the RFP before it went out. Mr. Ercoline stated, "I have a problem with that." He further stated, "My name is on it but someone else sent it out." The fact that Mr. Ercoline was unhappy with the process made sense to Chair Paul Ernenwein. Mr. Ercoline indicated, "We should be reviewing it; why are we here?" It was also stated an action was taken before an evaluation was done. The LDC Board was assured, I believe by their attorney, Justin, that no action had been taken. It was determined by the board that future actions would be reviewed directly by the board but this RFP action and resulting receipt of nine bids, taken without LDC Board review, would continue.
Justin, the LDC attorney, listed three items that would be discussed in executive session:
1. Current lawsuit and legal action as well as CSEA lawsuit
2. The nine bidders
3. RFP and the LDC Board
In the regular part of the LDC meeting, attorney Justin stated that no order had been entered yet from Judge Slobod's decision, but the county had issued "guidance to the Judge." He explained "we cannot appeal until the Order is entered." He went on to state that the LDC Board was meeting as a "legal board."
It was stated that Chair Paul Ernenwein had requested current operations numbers on Valley View and also projection numbers. Neil and Colleen from Orange County Budget gave figures from 2011-2014 and kept reiterating over and over again how the IGT( Inter-Governmental Transfer) funds could not be counted on and would "probably eventually be going away." Chairman Paul Ernenwein asked the question "why Valley View could not generate enough revenue on its own; why doesn't it pay for itself?" That question was only answered by saying the costs were greater than the revenue. Since the public was not allowed to speak at this point, we were unable to state that is why there is county government and taxes to pay for all county services to the tune of over 700 million dollars, of which Valley View costs have been most recently less than 1 percent of the county budget. Someone asked how can these private nursing home operators operate the private nursing homes with the same or better level of care at a lower cost than the county? Chairman Paul Ernenwein said he did not know the answer.
The meeting was re-opened to public comment before the LDC Board went into executive session. The board took a couple of comments but when Ben Weiss and I wanted to make public comments on the agenda items that had just been discussed, we were told we spoke once and were not allowed to speak again. We tried to reason with the board and stated when we first spoke it was in general and now we wanted to specifically respond to the contents of the meeting the board had conducted. We were denied our right to speak, and the board determined to leave the room and go into executive session.
When the board went into executive session, it was unclear whether there would be a public comment period after they returned. When the board returned from executive session at 12:07 p.m., most of the public, the two people from the budget office and the two Orange County legislators had left. The few of us who remained were advised that the next LDC meeting would be at 11 a.m. on Aug. 19. The location was tentatively identified as the 911 Center. The location still needs to be confirmed per Chairman Paul Ernenwein. The only other information that was shared was that the board had decided to hold off on hiring a professional stenographer "until the court situation was resolved." The meeting was closed at 12:13 p.m., without any additional public comment period.
Even after the official close of the meeting, the board continued to discuss LDC issues. There was reference made to a matrix that had been provided to all board members. Josh from Marcus and Millichap made clear "these numbers cannot be disclosed." Additionally, some kind of acknowledgement form was required to be signed by all LDC members. While I had to leave at 12:15 p.m., a couple of individuals did remain. They reported to me they witnessed checks being signed by a member of the LDC Board and given to Josh from Marcus and Millichap.
I hope this lengthy synopsis has many of us asking the question: How much is the budget for the Orange Valley View Development Corporation? How much has been spent already? To whom and for what and lastly why is taxpayer money continuing to be spent when Supreme Court Judge Elaine Slobod has determined the vote to place Valley View Nursing Home in this LDC was illegal? Please contact your legislators and the county executive with these questions. We, the taxpaying public, have a right to know.
Can Chester live within its means?
Can Chester live within its means?
How should Chester look 10 years from now?