The LDC meets, explains why it's still meeting

Committee chair Paul Ernenwein says LDC is tasked with looking at health care 30 years into the county's future

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  • Members of the public protest at Tuesday's LDC meeting (Photo by Edie Johnson)

  • The LDC committee on Tuesday, with chair Paul Ernenwein, far left, and next to him is DarcieMiller, the county's mental health commissioner. (Photo by Edie Johnson) r,

  • Legislator Roseanne Sullivan of Circleville objects to the LDC at Tuesday's meeting.

A 'hardened resolve' to sell

An email expressing the LDC's "resolve" to sell Valley View was sent to potential Valley View bidders on June 19, after the first court ruling on June 15 nullified the transfer of Valley View to the LDC. The second court ruling clarified that the entire resolution, including the formation of the LDC itself, was null and void.
The LDC's Freedom of Information Law officer, Elaine DeLuca, denied The Chronicle's Freedom of Information request for this correspondence, which the paper has obtained from Chris McKenna, reporter for The Times Herald Record. McKenna said he apparently received it by accident.
Joe W. Hoke, transaction coordinator for Institutional Property Advisors, a Marcus and Millichap Company, tells bidders in the email: "Please be advised that RFP responses are still due on June 24 by 5 p.m. CST. We look forward to receiving your responses." With that message he forwards the following statement from Sean Griffin of the law firm Harris Beach, attorney for the LDC:
"As transaction counsel we are respectful of the judge involved but are of the opinion that she has failed to appreciate the legislative history related to LDCs. The decision is being appealed. Through the appeal process or by a re-vote, we believe the county authority to sell will be confirmed in time for the ultimate transfer upon DOH approval. We are prepared to accommodate reasonable provisions to address buyer concerns and to hold them harmless on this issue. This decision has done nothing more than hardened the resolve of the county and LDC to sell the nursing home to a qualified buyer."

By Edie Johnson

— The local development corporation (LDC) formed to decide the fate of the county-owned nursing home, Valley View, met this week. But members spent most of their time explaining why they were meeting at all.

Members of the public held up placards that said "Who do you think you are?" and "This meeting is illegal."

The committee did not discuss business or make decisions when they met Tuesday at the Emergency Services Center in Goshen. They responded to about 45 minutes' worth of questions and comments from the public, then went into executive session for "matters related to litigation and to discuss real estate offers."

The public most of all wanted to know why the committee was meeting since a judge had ruled, twice, that it was illegal. Supreme Court Justice Elaine Slobod said the legislature did not have the supermajority, or two-thirds, vote needed to transfer Valley View to an LDC. The transfer was made after a simple majority vote.

A second court ruling, in July 22, held up the first decision, clarifying that the legislature's entire resolution is null and void, including the formation of the LDC itself. The county is appealing the ruling.

But committee member Alan Seidman, a former legislator and executive director of the Construction Contractors Association, who also serves on the county’s newly created Executive Labor Advisory Commission, said he was told that "the transfer of property to the LDC was illegal, but the formation and operation of the LDC itself is not illegal and has a right to operate."

Legislator Roseanne Sullivan (D-Crawford, Wallkill) countered that, although the county is appealing the ruling, "there is a public perception" that the LDC's functioning is illegal.

"Do the right thing. Just walk out," she told committee members.

The committee chair, Paul Ernenwein, said the committee was charged not only with reviewing private companies interested in buying Valley View, but to "look at quality of nursing care in the county over the last 30 years."

However, the committee's intention all along, according to an email sent by its attorney, Sean Griffin, to prospective buyers right after the first court decision, was focused solely on selling the home (please see sidebar). The committee recently disclosed the bids of eight companies, ranging from $24.5 million to $30 million, to buy the home.

"A major consideration for us is the quality of care for our region and into the future," Ernenwein said Tuesday.

Valley View advocate Mary Ann McDonough kept pressing the committee to admit that, once the facility is sold, they will have no control over what happens to its residents. One member of the public added: "I can't believe you keep saying you are looking at the quality of care for these people five minutes or five years from now, because once you sell it you have absolutely no control."

'You voted for them'

The public also asked where the money to operate the LDC is coming from. McDonough said that at the LDC's July 2 meeting, Ernenwein was called upon to "sign checks" for lodging and other accommodations for the lawyers and others from the real estate firm Marcus and Millichap working to sell the home. She said the committee has not responded to Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain the information.

Ernenwein said he wasn't aware of any money having been spent. He said committee members are spending time away from their homes and families and jobs to do this work as volunteers.

He said future meetings may be held at Valley View, in response to criticism that its residents are upset at being left out of talks that will profoundly affect their futures.

A former Valley View employee said that while the committee may have been looking at the merits of the facility for months, he and his co-workers have been "pouring our hearts and souls into it for years."

Another said, "You have absolutely no right to be here. Your authority comes from nowhere. You are walking on air."

"It will ultimately be your legislators making the decisions at to what is best," Ernenwein said.

An audience member responded: "It's the legislators that are the problem."

Ernenwein shrugged.

"You voted for them," he said.

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