Frederick County has mailed a $200,000 check to the state, but it is unclear what Maryland officials will do with it.
County leaders have said the payment, sent via certified mail earlier this week, will free them up to sell Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living without state permission.
The proposed sale had come before the Maryland Board of Public Works because the state contributed about $200,000 to build the county-owned centers. Repaying the money releases the county from the grant agreement that required local officials to seek state approval, the county asserts.
“They don’t have anything to do with the sale,” Frederick County Commissioners President Blaine Young said of state officials.
County commissioners voted on the check and accompanying correspondence Sept. 5 in a closed session. Commissioner David Gray said he opposed the grant repayment but was overruled by the other four board members.
Gray and Sonja Sperlich, a vocal opponent of the sale, think the decision should have been made in public view.
County attorney John Mathias said the commissioners did not have to vote on the check in an open meeting because it related to legal discussions with staff.
Both Gray and Sperlich also question whether the grant repayment takes the state out of the picture.
“I hope to God it doesn’t,” said Sperlich, former chairwoman of the now-disbanded board of trustees for Citizens and Montevue.
The state’s public works board — made up of the governor, comptroller and treasurer — last month postponed a decision on the facility sales until the resolution of legal challenges to the transaction.
If the $30 million sale to Aurora Health Management proceeds without the state’s sign-off, the public works board could find that the county had breached its 2011 grant agreement. However, the only penalty for a default would be requiring the county to return the grant money, Mathias said.
By sending the check to Annapolis, the county is simply volunteering the refund in advance, he said.
Mathias said Thursday he had not yet received a response from the state.
The county’s correspondence reached the public works board Thursday, according to a staff member.
Gregory Bedward, the board’s general counsel, said the development is under review and could not comment on how the state would respond to the check.
Young noted that the Maryland Department of General Services, which issued the grant, had recommended that the public works board approve the Citizens and Montevue sale. While state officials previously mentioned that the grant funding to the county totaled only $191,000, Young said the check included an additional $9,000 to satisfy the agreement with the state.
The county’s special projects manager said the Citizens and Montevue sale should be finalized before the year’s end.
Follow Bethany Rodgers on Twitter: @BethRodgersFNP.