There must be days when commissioners Blaine Young, Kirby Delauter, Paul Smith and Billy Shreve feel like they’re the only people in the state who support the sale of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation and Montevue Assisted Living (although we doubt they’re too worried about it).
Even the three-member Board of Public Works — made up of the governor, comptroller and treasurer — is opposing the sale of the county-owned homes, issuing a letter to the Board of County Commissioners reminding them in no uncertain terms that any move to privatize the senior care centers must first win state approval.
Unfortunately — for the commissioners, anyway — the BPW’s executive secretary, Sheila McDonald, wrote to the county June 11 to remind it that it can’t hand over the front-door keys to Aurora Holdings VI LLC because of a $200,000 state grant.
The agreement that goes with that grant “explicitly requires the County to obtain written consent from the Board of Public Works before transposing or disposing of any grant-funded property.”
Well, that’s just what Young did when in May, like a bull in a china shop, he approved an asset purchase agreement and lease as part of the first phase of moving the centers to Aurora. The company took over finances and the 320-plus county staff became Aurora employees. That move by Young, conducted unilaterally and suddenly in the midst of a lawsuit, under an agreement that had changed without sufficient notice or any public hearing, was almost as arrogant as if Young had stood in front of the BPW in Annapolis and waved a $200,000 check offering to pay off that grant.
Oh, wait. He did.
And not to belabor the point, but we could waste a whole editorial about how unwise it is to start a feud with three of the most powerful public officials in the state.
Oh, wait. We did.
Back to the letter. McDonald not so gently reminds the county that going ahead with the asset purchase agreement and lease “constitutes a disposition of the grant-funded property.” The reason that the state is requiring the county to hold off that sale is because a stipulation in the original 1828 deed is being tried in court. Presumably the state doesn’t want to authorize the sale, then get caught up in any complex legal liability stemming from that lawsuit.
The letter continues: “You are acutely aware that the Board of Public Works has not consented to any disposition of the grant-funded property. To repeat my conclusion in my earlier letter, the Board of Public Works clearly expects the County to adhere to its obligations under the grant agreement.”
What could happen next is unclear. As Gregory Bedward, the BPW’s general counsel, told reporter Bethany Rodgers for her story Saturday, the state is waiting for the county to reply.
Young’s response when asked was his typical undiplomatic bluster. “They can have it. They can take over the nursing home,” Young told Rodgers. “But they can’t force the county to run something.”
We’ve argued all along that the “damn the torpedoes” approach eschewed by Young in this process is an ill-informed way to conduct county business, and it plays fast and loose with the futures of some of our most vulnerable residents.
We’re sure Young will continue to push ahead with the sale, but this issue has already become far too complicated with the numerous players involved and a trial pending in January 2015. We’re as tired as you are of how intractable the commissioners are, even in the face of overwhelming public opposition. Their inability to hear alternatives borders on the pathological, and the more opposition there is, the more unyielding they become. With that in mind, we’ve know we’ve said this before, repeatedly, but we’ll try one more time — any further moves toward privatizing Montevue and Citizens should be delayed. There are too many unresolved questions. Untangling the legal mess that could result may burden the county in time and money for years to come.