Instead of going to court, Frederick County will attempt to negotiate Friday with Aurora Holdings VII, the private company running Citizens Rehabilitation Care and Odyssey Assisted Living at Montevue.
A U.S. District Court judge was set to hear a complaint Friday from Aurora against County Executive Jan Gardner, the County Council and the county. Instead, the parties will meet in a mediation session that will begin in the morning, said John Mathias, county attorney.
The court hearing has been postponed until 10 a.m. on Oct. 19, Mathias said.
The county remains optimistic that the disputes can be resolved in mediation, Mathias said.
The county historically owned and operated the two long-term care centers, but the former Board of County Commissioners agreed in contracts signed May 1, 2014, to sell the centers to Aurora Holdings VII. Aurora has owned the centers’ operation since then, but the sale of the property and buildings is not final.
There are two other open court cases related to the sale, and the parties in the cases have met twice this year to negotiate.
Since before taking office, Gardner has said that the commissioners made a bad deal. The county historically provided subsidized care to the indigent residents in the center, and Gardner thinks it is in the public’s best interest that the county own the centers.
The county commissioners sold the centers because they were losing money. The commissioners thought a private company would run the centers more efficiently.
If negotiations fail, the county intends to file a court case soon to attempt to acquire Aurora’s interests in the centers through eminent domain.
Eminent domain is the government’s right to seize private property for public use, with just compensation.
In its complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Aurora is asking the judge to both put a hold on any action the county could take to acquire its interests in the centers, and to rule that the county’s use of eminent domain would be a violation of federal law.
The county states in its response to Aurora’s complaint in court that the public use in this eminent domain case is to continue to provide care for the elderly indigent in the county. Also, it states that it is not the federal court’s place to rule on the matter.