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Wednesday, December 4, 2013
A day of reckoning is approaching on the Frederick County government contract of sale of the Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Care facilities to Aurora Health Management.
Local attorney Leslie Powell of Powell-Flynn LLC tells me “we have a consolidated hearing in court on two separate actions that we filed in the Circuit Court on January 16. One an administrative challenge relating to the adoption of the resolution authorizing the sale and the second, a broader action which raises claims relating to the restrictive covenant, the conduct of the BOCC in interfering with the Board of Trustees' management of the facilities, failure to comply with procurement rules, and other actions arising from the attempted sale.”
This hearing cannot come soon enough for those exasperated with the reckless manner Frederick County board of commissioner president Blaine Young has pursued his obsession with the privatization of government services since he won election in 2010.
It has been a tortuous three years beginning with the serious consideration given to the ill conceived Oliver Porter privatization report, followed by dramatic slashing of funding to nonprofits, the elimination of $2 million in county funding for Head Start, reducing the number of county employees during a period of deep recession and high unemployment, and now taxpayers are faced with the haphazard and irresponsible approach to the selling of the Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Care facilities.
The recent city zoning board of appeals ruling reversed the planning commission decision on the subdivision of the property, finding that the application was incomplete and the planning commission had not considered the impact of the sale on the community. This requires the county to either file a judicial appeal or resubmit subdivision plans to the city. The latter is the most likely choice the county will make, and either way, this will definitely delay the planned end of the year settlement.
This ruling followed the Maryland Board of Public Works decision to delay approval of the sale, pending the outcome of litigation. The Board of Public Works confirmed their decision in spite of theatrics by Blaine Young to proffer them a check for $200,000.
On January 16th, don’t be surprised if the Judge hearing the arguments finds additional missteps taken by the county in their rush to sell these facilities.
For one, state law prohibits entering into a contract of sale on a lot subject to subdivision and the zoning board of appeals decision is an example of why this law exists.
The manner the county dismissed the board of trustees, entered into a management agreement with the contract purchaser and whether they provided due public notice are just a few of the areas where the county will have to withstand judicial review.
Perhaps the most important issue, is the 1828 deed of the property when conveyed to the county states "for the use and Benefit of the Poor of Frederick County". The Deed provides that the property was conveyed to the Justices of the Levy Court and their successors in office "forever, for the Benefït of the Poor of said County, and to and for no other use, intent or purpose whatsoever.. .".
It would not be surprising the judicial review on the 16th doesn’t find additional administrative errors that will certainly delay the sale even further.
If the Judge rules the deed covenants restrict the sale to a company such as Aurora Health Management, the county’s only option will be to appeal and hope for a more favorable decision.
Either way, the contract of sale will be delayed for a considerable time period, with the distinct possibility the sale will be declared invalid by an upper court.
What is extremely troublesome is the contract purchaser continues to manage the facilities and receive a $50,000 per month fee as the legal wrangling takes place. There is no incentive for Aurora to operate the facilities in the best interest of the county government and taxpayers during what is likely to be a considerable delay.
There is nothing to stop them from writing off delinquent debt to the county during this period and “cleaning” the books for when they become the owners.
What needs to be done immediately, as the likely long legal process takes its course, is the reinstatement of the board of trustees, notice given to the contract purchaser as provided in the contract, they will no longer manage the facilities and a bid issued or interim manager hired for the management of the Citizens/Montevue facilities.
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Posted by George Wenschhof at 8:00 AM