Lawsuit challenges Valley View decision

Attorney Michael Sussman says vote was illegal: County Executive Steve Neuhaus promises to 'vigorously defend' decision

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  • Michael Sussman (File photo by Joshua Rosenau)

Across-the-board cuts proposed

GOSHEN — Valley View is not the only county department to be affected by cuts.
Neuhaus’ office released to The Chronicle a menu of choices given to legislators that propose staff cuts to the 37 other departments funded by county taxes.
The 2015 budget will, off the top, eliminate $10.4 million budgeted this year for the salaries and benefits of 212 vacant positions. To bridge the rest of the shortfall, 600 to 700 more positions will need to go, according to the menu.
The most positions will be taken from the Department of Social Services, which has the biggest staff (449 as of Feb. 21, 2014). But even the smallest department, that of the county historian, which has only one filled position, will not be spared.
Legislators will consider the menu of choices when they begin budget deliberations in May.

By Pamela Chergotis

— A local attorney is suing to nullify the Legislature's decision last week to transfer the county-owned nursing home, Valley View, to a local development corporation for eventual sale.

Michael Sussman of Chester on Wednesday filed an Article 78 lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Goshen that names the Orange County Legislature, county Executive Steve Neuhaus, and Orange Valley View Development Corp. as defendants. The suit was filed on behalf of 35 employees and residents of Valley View.

The suit's main contention is that a supermajority vote of two-thirds is needed to eliminate a county department, according to New York County Law. The legislature's April 9 vote was 12-9, two votes short of a supermajority.

Last March, Judge Robert A. Onofry, objecting to a budget override by the former county executive, ruled that Valley View is not simply a nursing home, but an entire county department known as “The Department of Residential Healthcare Services."

Neuhaus has pledged to fight the suit.

“The county Attorney’s Office is reviewing the lawsuit and we will vigorously defend against this challenge," said a statement from Neuhaus' spokesperson, Dain Pascocello. "Local development corporations have been upheld again and again by courts across New York state. We look forward to the court hearing the facts of this important case and ensuring the long-term success of Valley View nursing home."

Sussman: 'Democracy is undermined'

Sussman said last week that the county executive and legislators are breaking a promise they made while campaigning for office last fall.

"Democracy is undermined when newly elected officials make major decisions which violate the pledges they have recently made as candidates," he said in a statement on April 10. "During the 2013 election, Steve Neuhaus and every other Republican legislator promised to maintain Valley View as a county-owned facility. This was consistent with the legislature's 2014 budget which fully funded Valley View through that fiscal year. Indeed, our county legislature did this to give the new administration at Valley View more time to 'right the ship' and change practices which had caused substantial operating deficits. The new administration has succeeded in significantly reducing operating deficits; yet, last month, hiding behind some newfound overall budget deficit, Mr. Neuhaus again targeted Valley View for closing."

He said the legislation passed last week to transfer the nursing home to a local development corporation "explicitly removes the decision to retain or close Valley View from the County legislature and places it in the hands of an unelected seven-member board to be dominated by county executive appointees. The hand-writing is on the wall — Valley View will be closed."

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