Citizens and Montevue

Opponents of the sale of the county-owned Citizens and Montevue facilities filed a complaint focusing on the land deed.

A roughly 200-year-old deed doesn't present an obstacle in Frederick County's move to privatize its nursing home and assisted living centers, attorneys for the county argue.

In response to a legal complaint filed by sale opponents, the county's attorneys assert that governments must have the flexibility to dispose of property if they feel it is the best interests of citizens. Operations at Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living have cost taxpayers more than $53 million since 2000, and county officials have the authority to decide when enough is enough, attorneys wrote in legal filings.

Those who want the county to keep Citizens and Montevue have challenged the sale with a pair of cases filed in Frederick County Circuit Court. Earlier this month, attorneys for the county submitted a defense to the larger of the two cases.

The filing zeroed in on debate surrounding a deed drawn up in 1828 when Elias Brunner sold 88 acres to the county "for the Benefit of the Poor of said County, and to and for no other use, intent or purpose whatsoever."

The plaintiffs have argued this statement clashes with the county's plan to hand over the facilities to a for-profit company. Montevue provides reduced-cost, assisted living care to residents who cannot afford to pay full price.

However, Kurt Fischer, an attorney representing the county in the cases, said the ancient deed language described the county's goal of converting the property into a farm where the poor could live and work.

"That probably made a lot of sense and was good public policy back in 1825, but the way the government deals with poverty ... has changed a lot since 1825, and that's why the government has to have flexibility to move capital out of that property and focus it on other projects," said Fischer, a Baltimore-based attorney with the law firm Venable LLP.

Fischer said the county is not bound by any restrictive covenant on the property in part because officials paid fair market value for the land. However, even if the deed did limit how the county can use the land, the state had the authority to terminate these restrictions, he argues. State lawmakers did just that in 1912, when they passed a law allowing counties to sell property that local leaders deem is no longer needed.

Plaintiffs argue commissioners failed to prove Citizens and Montevue was no longer needed before their June 25 vote to sell the facilities.

The case against the county also alleges that the appointed trustees board for Citizens and Montevue had authority to sell the facilities, not the commissioners. In addition, plaintiffs take issue with the way a management contract was awarded to the prospective buyer of the facilities.

Fischer says the county followed procurement policies by hiring Aurora Health Management to run Citizens and Montevue. Local leaders were trying to preserve continuity for facility residents and staff by hiring Aurora on a month-to-month basis to operate the centers until the sale is finalized, he said.

But the county's defense focused on the deed because it is the most meaty and complex part of the lawsuit, Fischer said.

The county's attorneys have also made a motion to dismiss the second case plaintiffs filed as they seek to block a sale.

Commissioner Paul Smith says he does not think that a judge will find merit in the two legal challenges to the sale. He said he is not sure whether the cases will succeed in delaying privatization; it depends on whether Aurora is willing to move forward to closing even if the litigation is not resolved.

Follow Bethany Rodgers on Twitter: @BethRodgersFNP.

(22) comments

dbjanda1

Darth---Why did the BoCC sell the nursing homes at 6/8 million dollar loses then ???...How did that benefit the taxpayers as you say ???...Me

dbjanda1

Darth---You've got your civic and business classes mixed up...Government is a non-profit and businesses are for profit...You're welcome for the FREE advice, I'm a non-profit...Me

darththevader

Your comment makes no sense at all. Being not for profit doesn't mean go to great lengths to throw millions away

briancaps

To darththevader: why would a for profit company, Aurora Health Management, want to buy the facilities if they lose on average $4 million a year? First they get $10 million from the county for first four years. Then they kick out those who can't afford to pay or sign them all up for medicaid, where your state and federal tax dollars pick up the tab and Aurora laughs all the way to the bank.

darththevader

Last I checked Medicaid is something that has been deducted out of everyone of my paychecks. It's not a freebie.

They lose $4,000,000 a year because the government runs it. It's not what government is supposed to do which is why it is done anywhere.

darththevader

Losing $53,000,000 and climbing isn't exactly in the best interest of the taxpayers.

Impeach Blaine

and neither is selling to the lowet bidder

Impeach Blaine

Nor is doing something that a majority of tax payers are dead set against.

Impeach Blaine

And neither was sending out that silly $100 refund check and paying over $80k for postage, checks, and processing

MCEDDE21

Why won’t this BoCC stop wasting our money on this “enterprise”? How much are they paying Fischer and the other two lawyers from the Baltimore firm of Venable, LLP to defeat the clear will of the Citizens of Frederick County?

We all understand the legal import of land contracts and deeds. We don’t need three lawyers from out of town to tell us different. The deed of 1828 is valid and, as shown in the link below, the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld a similar deed just this past August.

Young can’t prevail in court, so he intends to bankrupt the filers by running up their legal costs. From the Baltimore Sun: “Community halts Pikesville cemetery from selling land to developers; Court of Appeals cites 1913 covenant to keeps 200-acre parcel intact.”
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-county/owings-mills/ph-om-druid-ridge-20130828,0,3222487.story

You, dear reader, can help stop this sham sale and the escalating waste of your tax dollars. Please attend the Frederick City Zoning Board of Appeals hearing on Tuesday night, October 22 at 7:00 PM in City Hall. “REVERSE THE DECISION TO REZONE MONTEVUE!” (See us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StopTheSaleOfMontevueCitizens?fref=ts)

darththevader

A dozen commenters on the FNP is hardly the clear will of the taxpayers

darththevader

Free would be an improvement to lossing millions

gary4books

I am glad we have lawyers to justify things that do not seem to make sense. I just wonder how much f the spending in the past few years was needed and how much was to make the property ready to sell.

shiftless88

Why can't we just lease the facilities?

briancaps

"The plaintiffs have argued this statement clashes with the county's plan to hand over the facilities to a for-profit company. Montevue provides reduced-cost, assisted living care to residents who cannot afford to pay full price." The quote from the article is perfect. The buyers Aurora Health Management get $10 million from the county over the first 4 years to subsidize those who can not pay full price, then what? Will a for profit company, Aurora, continue to care for who not pay full price? NO! That is where Aurora see's the chance to turn the facilities profitable. I agree with Cellmark just because the document was from 1825 doesn't make it invalid today. It is my understanding the Board of Public Works, led by Governor O'malley, has the final say on the sale. So please e-mail him as I did to stop the sale and protect the residents of Citizen's and Montevue from profit hungry Aurora.

president8444

Those who want to have our county keep Nursing home donate large amounts of money ,not talk.Do it now.

briancaps

You would rather increase the Homeless population in Fredrick County by selling to a for profit company? So those of us against the sale should put up large sums of money to house the less fortunate in Frederick County? The county should take some responsibility for it's citizens. Read the deed from 1825! The land is for the less fortunate!

darththevader

How is the sale going to increase the homeless population? Drive through other counties and tell me about all the homeless you see because the county doesn't own an assisted living facility. Show me all the people in other counties calling for county owned facilities

cellmark

Mr.Fischer, interesting points of law you make. If the points proposed stand true, then I guess the constitution no longer is valid, along with all the other documents from the 1700s on up.
I would think by keeping in mind the wording acepted as standard in those days would be taken into consideration.
I would also think the State of Maryland should be involved if this suit becomes dismissed.
This single suit will impact a huge amount of deeds, trusts, and money in the near future since we have so much property in this county dated prior to the 1800s.
The basis of our laws is to follow the implied intent and not to decipher verbage that is popular.

shiftless88

I was thinking the same thing. You know, words like "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed", I guess that made a lot of sense and was good public policy back then, but things have changed a lot since then....

gary4books

Another example of "lawyers" saying that does not mean what you think it means, let me explain what it really means. Give me a break. I can read.

prg202

Several things. I would like to know how long Mr.Fischer has lived in Frederick, or if
indeed he ever has lived here.
Let me put it this way, about 25 or 30 years ago, we made a will. Many of our friends
have done the same. It was written at our request and direction by a well qualified Lawyer. I suspect, even though we are told that he crossed every T and dotted every
I, if someone wanted to challenge our will, they could do so and go to court to overturn
our wishes. In the case of the Bruner decision to sell a particular site for the particular
purpose of providing care and a home for the poor, and the homeless of this county,
there was a definite need for that facility then and over the ensuing years, As a matter
of fact, that need is growing year by year as we are an aging population.
The majority of the citizens of this county that attended a meeting of the County
Commissioners in June of this year were appalled that 4 of the 5 elected commissioners, came to the meeting apparently having already decided to sell this just
remodeled facility.
Having had no appreciable contact with the Board of Trustees of the facility, they
without a by-your -leave fired all of the Trustees, most of whom had either medical
knowledge or Financial knowledge to help with making this facility a profitable and
medically successful facility, much like the Bruners would have expected, and
indeed the citizens of Frederick, particularly the aging members want to be there
for them if necessary. The Frederick News Post could do the citizens a major
favor by writing an article that was specific about all of this. Those of us who have
seen the Bruner document and care about our friends etc., already have
knowledge about this issue. Others would benefit from a complete explanation
of the issues.

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