Lindsay admitted that he didn’t have the votes “until the very, very end.” The proceedings had been recessed several times to allow for back-room dealings. The county executive’s voice could be heard on one of his aide’s BlackBerrys, telling his people to “amend the resolution!” At one point Legis. Ed Romaine (R-Riverhead) was suddenly in distress and had to leave the chamber, trailed by several nurses from the facility who ran after him. He later said he’d choked on a potato chip.
As the clock approached midnight, Lindsay had to invoke the “Cinderella rule” to extend the proceedings, the first time he’s ever done that as presiding officer. Then another snafu arose: the copying machine had run out of paper so the legislators couldn’t all get the amended resolutions, which detailed the provisions the county executive had offered to protect the patients and the staff.
When the sale was approved at 12:17 a.m., with 12 votes from Democrats and Republicans, there was no high-fiving.
Legis. Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor), the majority leader, told the Press later, “This is probably the toughest vote I’ve cast in 11 years.”
Lindsay looked exhausted.
But the vote only adds another chapter to the saga. The decision is still subject to the Appellate Division’s interpretation of whether the sale violates the Hibberd law. The county executive’s attorney for the matter, Joseph Macy, said it did not; the lead counsel for the lawsuit, Anton Borovina, said it did.
Meanwhile, the Suffolk County Comptroller, Joseph Sawicki, Jr., has been looking into the Request for Proposal process that led to Rozenberg’s winning the bid. His office said the initial RFP’s objective was to lease the facility, but it was changed to “purchase the facility after the bids to lease were opened.”
Just as curious, his office said, was how the county advertised the lease “in the County’s two official publications, the Smithtown News and Smithtown Messenger,” while “the sale of the facility/premises was never advertised.”
“The whole RFP process should be tossed,” Sawicki, a Republican, tells the Press, adding that “it was flawed.”
He explains, “Say you want to rent a home that you own and you place an advertisement in your local paper, ‘House for Rent,’ and you get 10 people who want to rent the house. Then all of a sudden you and your wife decide you don’t want to deal with renting and you want to sell the house. You would never ask the same 10 people who responded that they wanted to rent from you if they want to buy it! You go out and take another ad that you want to sell the house. You will attract a different financial base of people. That’s exactly what did not happen with the John J. Foley Nursing Home.”
Another issue that “certainly raises some eyebrows,” Sawicki says, is that at the same time the county executive wanted to sell the facility, the county had gotten a $2.6 million grant from the Dormitory Authority of New York to improve the place, which included pediatric equipment.
“There’s probably about a million and a half in specialty equipment that was procured under a State Dormitory Authority grant that we got,” says Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr., (R-Hauppauge), the minority leader. He remains adamantly opposed to the sale, and intends to look further into this aspect.
“From a monetary perspective it was imprudent, unreasonable and unwise to go ahead and sell an asset that in Rozenberg’s opinion is worth $60 million,” says Kennedy, citing the figure that Rozenberg himself uttered when he appeared last June at the legislature. “It’s a bad deal and it’s bad business, and ultimately it’s forgoing forever our ability to go ahead and address any of the multitude of the unmet healthcare needs that we have in our county.”
That’s not how Levy sees this process. He lauded the legislature for approving the sale because it averts layoffs and disruption of the residents’ lives.
“Difficult economic times call for strong decision-making by elected officials,” he said in a statement after the vote, “as well as compromise that is necessary to get things done. This was an important moment for the taxpayers of Suffolk County, and a moment that reflects well on both the legislature and the executive branches of government.”
As for the ongoing care of the county’s less fortunate residents, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, say Foley’s residents whose future is uncertain.
“People of Suffolk County are making a serious mistake if they let this place go,” insists Smith, the former carpenter.
“Flat out, if this place weren’t here, I’d be dead.”
“The whole idea is basically to help those who cannot afford to help themselves,” adds Wachter, indignantly, sitting in his wheelchair. “When did it stop being about the well-being and the health of the people and start being about that ‘we’re not taking in X amount of dollars?’”
Others will have to answer that question.