|WARWICK — New facts that surfaced this past week in articles in at least two Orange County weekly newspapers have raised additional questions about improprieties or possible legal wrongdoing with regard to the County’s handling of the Valley View Nursing Home.
“Articles written by Joshua Rosenau in those weekly newspapers appear to connect some dots that had heretofore been overlooked or perhaps ignored,” County Executive candidate Michael P. Sweeton asserted. “It is particularly disturbing that the administrators of the nursing home also appear to have held powerful positions overseeing millions of dollars of pension and health benefit funds for Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The SEIU, one of New York’s more radical unions, would likely have been in the running to represent the employees of the Nursing Home once it became privatized. This potentially presents a serious conflict of interest.”
“At the same time that Diana and his friend Bill DeProspo, chairman of the Orange County Republican Party, were urging legislators in Orange County to support Diana in his desire to privatize the Nursing Home, DeProspo was also representing, as either owner or attorney, the Nursing Home Operator (OAS) in Essex County,” Sweeton noted. “In addressing officials in Essex County, DeProspo said ‘One of the counties that we [emphasis added] have been very successful in has been Orange County.'”
This information comes on top of disturbing news contained in the Orange County Legislature’s Bipartisan Committee report that the entire agreement with OAS may be void from its inception because it contained a clause giving OAS a Right of First Refusal to buy the facility in the event that Orange County were to sell the nursing home. According to the report such a clause would have required such an agreement to be voted upon by the full Orange County Legislature. The agreement was never presented to the Legislature and no such vote was ever taken. Mr. DeProspo’s wife Catherine Bartlett served as the County Attorney when this agreement was drafted and approved by the County Executive.
“The more we learn, the murkier the whole situation becomes. Now it may be that there has been no technically ‘criminal’ act committed here, but there is certainly a very clear appearance of impropriety, sufficient enough in my mind for the Legislature to call for an outside investigation by the Attorney General’s office. I urge them to do so immediately,” Sweeton encouraged. “If the Legislature does not begin to separate itself totally from the questionable actions of Diana, DeProspo and others, they run the risk of being tarred with the same brush. I don’t believe the Legislature is complicit here; they acted in many instances without full knowledge of the facts because the County Executive and his team withheld valuable information or perhaps intentionally misled legislators and the public with false information. In addition, there are certain facts relating to this whole scenario that only Diana and his cohorts know. Again the Legislature is in the dark because Diana and the others refused to testify before the investigative committee.”
“I suggest a legislative referral of the matter in the strongest terms to the Attorney General’s Office. Because of past political associations with many of those involved, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office would certainly recuse itself. In addition, in light of the mismanagement of the facility that has been highlighted in the legislative report, I’d like to see the OAS contract terminated at once for breach of contract. There is no need to wait until the end of the year. The Legislature’s recent decision to recommend to the County Executive that the OAS contract simply not be renewed in January of next year doesn’t go far enough,” said Sweeton. “What additional damage can OAS cause to patients, staff and taxpayers in the next three months? We need to get them out of there now.”