Officials: Elant connection not a conflict for LDC chair

Paul Ernenwein is vice chair of fundraising for private nursing home in Goshen

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  • Paul Ernenwein, center, at the most recent meeting of the Orange Valley View Development Corporation (Photo by Edie Johnson)

— Paul Ernenwein, who chairs the local development corporation tasked with deciding the fate of the county-owned nursing home, Valley View, is also vice chair since 2010 of the Elant Foundation, the fundraising arm of the private nursing home in Goshen.

This information was not included in the announcement of Ernenwein's appointment back in April. In announcing his appointees to the LDC, County Executive Steve Neuhaus described Ernenwein as a partner in the Newburgh law firm Catania, Mahon, Milligram & Rider PLLC, a board member at the Greater Hudson Valley Family Health Center, and a former president of the board of directors at the Orange County Citizens Foundation. Two court rulings recently declared the LDC illegal, but its members continue to meet and open bids.

Many readers say they're worried about losing an affordable option for nursing care if Valley View is sold. Frank Giorgio of Chester asked in a recent article about veterans' support of Valley View: “Where are these people going to go? That’s my question. The money is another thing — how are they going to finance (alternate care)? Are people going to be able to afford it?”

The Chronicle asked if Ernenwein's advocacy of a private nursing home in the same town as Valley View posed a conflict of interest, or showed a tendency to favor the private over the public.

Dain Pascocello, Neuhaus' spokesperson, made the point that, while Neuhaus appointed him, Ernenwein was unanimously elected to chair the LDC by the LDC's board of directors and receives no pay for his work. And he's a member of many organizations that boost his qualification to serve on the LDC.

"Mr. Ernenwein is a past and current member of many respected community organizations and causes, including the Orange County Citizens Foundation, the Children's Country Day School, Greater Hudson Valley Family Health Center, the Newburgh Illuminated Festival, and the Newburgh Historical Society," Pascocello said in an emailed statement. "His association with Elant is entirely voluntary and consistent with his attachment to the community in which he has lived all his life. Elant has not bid on Valley View, will not bid on the nursing home, and has no interest in bidding.

"There is no financial stake in Mr. Ernenwein’s presence on the Local Development Corporation, full stop. County Executive Neuhaus selected Paul Ernenwein for the LDC and Mr. Ernenwein accepted for a simple reason: his experience in the community healthcare field combined with his commitment to volunteerism made him an excellent choice to participate on an all-volunteer board of directors charged with enhancing the quality of care for Orange County’s seniors and keeping Valley View nursing home open and operating."

Ernenwein's response was more pointed, turning the question back on The Chronicle and its readers:

"Your paper's blog is extremely disturbing and completely undermines any credibility any of you have as thinking responsible people," he wrote in an emailed statement.

"You may want to reveal what community organizations each of you contribute your time, energy, money and resources to and how that further undermines the credibility of your reporting though I suspect it so pathetic and so disengaged and embarrassing that each of you fail in every way to be contributing parts of our community, our region our families. What have you given to habitat for humanity? What have you given to the boys and girls clubs? What have you given to the greater Hudson valley health center or other Federally qualified health centers? Please answer me. Then please poll your colleagues and your readers. You accuse me? What possible benefit are you talking about? That I give too much time, energy and contributions to too many organizations? You don't understand giving and good deeds because you refuse to be a part of giving and good deeds. Your readers as reflected on your blog are mean spirited, disengaged, self serving, self righteous and completely ignorant. Why would you reference 'what they are asking.' What have you provided for Elant? Why have you not been a part of our fundraisers? Our volunteers? How much have you given? Why have you refused to give more?

"Thank you for researching the bidders. Let's get your information to the legislature and have them do a little work, due diligence, get to know them and determine if any of them are properly suited and in the best interest of our residents and our region.

"I do not understand or appreciate your allegations of conflict. What are you talking about? The not for profit does not compete with the county facility. How is that possible. Please explain what your readers are talking about. Compete for what? We need all the beds in this region. We need all the care. That's the point. How would valley view become less affordable? Under what possible payment scheme are you talking about? There is no conflict, we need more beds, more access, more high quality sustainable care for all of us. Whether insured, receiving Medicare or medicaid. I'm not leaving the area. Are you? When are you leaving? Why are you leaving your children? Well I'm going to be a part of doing the best I can for my family and my community so we can stay, so generations of families can remain together. If you, your colleagues and your readers as reflected in your blog want to vilify those of us who try, just keep at it. 'Neither fire nor wind, birth nor death can erase our good deeds.'

"You all will be quickly forgotten."

Orange County this week received its second Moody's downgrade, to AA3, so far this year. Bidders have offered from $20 million to $30 million to buy Valley View. All this adds to the pressure to sell.

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