Valley View bosses tied to union

Home's administration linked to millions in pension dollars

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  • Valley View bosses and their connections to the pension and benefit funds of the Greater New York 1199 SEIU, a private sector union. Illustration by Heather Mormile

  • Orange County Legislator Myrna Kemnitz listens to testimony from Michael Anagnostakis. Here Anagnostakis gestures for the four times County Executive Edward Diana renewed the OAS contract.Photo by Joshua Rosenau

  • Gerri Myers has worked at Valley View over the last 30 years. She said the move to privatize the facility has demoralized the staff. Photo by Joshua Rosenau

— A key manager at Valley View nursing home who favors privatizing the county-owned home has held strong ties to a union different from the one representing Valley View's staff.

Valley View leader John Chobor, along with Administrator William Pascocello head up Orange Administrative Services, or OAS, which runs the home. During their tenure at Valley View, Chobor and Pascocello held powerful positions overseeing millions of dollars for the 1199 Greater New York Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The two men managed the pension and health benefits for the 1199 SEIU union over a period when deficits at Valley View more than doubled, according to a county report.

The Civil Service Employees Association, or CSEA, is the union that now serves Valley View. SEIU works with private nursing homes.

An investigative committee of the Orange County Legislature last week accused OAS in its final report of bad faith and breach of contract for mismanaging the home. William DeProspo, chair of the Orange County Republican Committee, supports privatizing nursing homes, including Valley View. In an interview Tuesday, he attributed the home's financial troubles largely to the high pay and benefits packages of CSEA workers.

DeProspo said OAS has done everything in its power to keep finances sound. He and Chobor have worked elsewhere in the state to privatize county-run homes.

Sales push

The drama unfolding in Goshen over whether to sell Valley View is part of a statewide trend. In Elizabethtown, N.Y., Essex County sold its Horace Nye Nursing Home to Centers for Specialty Care Group for $4 million.
Before that, Chobor and DeProspo traveled to meet with Essex County leaders and advised them to sell the Nye home.
“It has been a very, very challenging task certainly for all of you here in Essex County and in many other counties as well,” DeProspo said, according to minutes of the 2006 meeting. “One of the counties that we have been very successful in has been Orange County, which has a 540-bed facility. John (Chobor) and his team have been operating that and he can talk about that in a little bit.”
The team DeProspo referenced was OAS, the firm owned by Chobor and selected by county Executive Ed Diana in 2003 to manage Valley View.
“I do everything from government relations, budgetary issues, reimbursement issues to negotiating the collective bargaining agreement between 1199, a big health care union,” Chobor said at the meeting. “If you are not familiar with it up here yet, they are growing and expanding and probably on their way here.”
Also in 2006, Chobor and Valley View administrator and fellow OAS officer, William Pascocello, were listed as pension fund trustees for the SEIU, which works with private nursing homes. Their names appeared in the union's annual reports in 2006 and 2010 as trustees for SEIU's Greater New York Benefit Fund, the Greater New York Pension Fund, the Greater New York Training and Employment Fund, and the Greater New York Child Care Fund. Tax returns for the Greater New York Benefit Fund in 2010 valued its holdings at more than $164 million.
Pascocello currently acts as a trustee for the funds, said Stacey Millman, a union spokeswoman. Chobor had been a trustee of the funds from 2004 to 2010, she said.

Union against union

At the 2006 meeting in Essex, Chobor said that, no matter which company buys the Nye home, its jobs would likely remain unionized, according to the minutes.
“You have to be very aware of and delicate around the issues of right-sizing the staff and how you do that over time,” Chobor said. “How you keep as many of the jobs as you possibly can and frankly I suspect they are going to be unionized positions one way or the other.”
Chobor's predictions may come true this year, after Essex in June approved selling the home to Bronx-based Centers for Specialty Care Group, which has strong ties to the SEIU, according to a company letter.
“Ten out of the eleven facilities are union facilities under the SEIU-1199 and we follow their pay and benefit scale.” CEO Kenneth Rozenberg said of his company in a 2011 letter.
Prior to its sale, the Nye home was staffed by county workers organized under the CSEA.
Jessica Ladlee, spokeswoman for CSEA Orange County, said incompetence could not explain the alleged mismanagement by the managers of OAS.
“It's impossible to believe that a licensed nursing home administrator with a long tenure in the industry would suddenly be unable to complete basic management of a facility like they have at Valley View,” she said.
DeProspo said the continued trust SEIU has in Pascocello and Chobor showed the home's financial problems were beyond the administration's control.
“How is it that the largest health care union in the world would trust millions and possibly billions of dollars to someone when his company is mismanaging a nursing home?” he said. “It's counterintuitive. I don't believe that it has been mismanaged. They have done the best they possibly can under the rules you have to abide by under a county-run nursing home.”
Kristin Jensen, a spokeswoman for the county executive, said Pascocello's performance led to Valley View's four-star rating from the state health department.
“Bill Pascocello has nearly 40 years of experience in this position,” Jensen said. “He has held his administrator's license since 1978 and has been appointed by the state at various times to manage nursing homes in trouble.” In order to meet Medicare and Medicaid requirements, Valley View provides cost reports and certified audited financials to Medicare and Medicaid each year, Jensen said.
Bill Oliphant, president of CSEA's bargaining unit, said he hoped the legislators' decision last Thursday to recommend ending relations with OAS will prevent the sale of Valley View and the ouster of its workers.“Let's say that Pascocello or his boss have an interest in what happens to the (SEIU) at the facility,” he said. “That is not so easily accomplished without a sale.”
The decision whether to extend contract of OAS rests solely with the county executive.
This story has been altered from its original version to correct errors in reporting.

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