By SUSAN BALDWIN
Thirty-six year-old Avi Rothner paid a "surprise visit" to the special Legislature meeting on Oct. 18. Many of the legislators did not know he was coming and had not prepared questions for the only man County Executive Greg Edwards considered for the purchase of the Chautauqua County Home.
The first thing he did was raise a newspaper and state, "I have a nursing home in Lancaster, Neb., that is doing well since its purchase last year." He then raised a pack of papers and said that those papers stated his nursing homes were doing better having been owned by him. He then raised a pack of papers and said "These are the lawsuits I have filed, suing the people who have bad-mouthed me for $20,000." He said he used the money to pay off legal fees and donated the rest to charity. Why did he start off threatening us?
A?potential buyer did not answer all questions posed on Oct. 18.
No legislator got a copy of these papers he flapped.
There were several good questions asked by our legislators. One mentioned what did he have to say about owning several of the 10 worst nursing homes listed in the country, and he explained that they belong to his father, but that his name has been on them since he was 16 years old. When asked exactly how many nursing homes he owned, more smoke and mirrors: "I don't know."
"Come on, you seem to know a lot of things. How many?"
He replied, "Five," and invited the legislators to travel the country to see them, knowing that was not going to happen. When asked if he was going to follow the 14 stipulations Chautauqua County legislators asked for in the condition of a sale, he pretended to "not (be) sure of the conditions of the sale," then flipped answers like "If we can ..."
He said he would keep employees at comparable pay rates provided they pass the background tests, but of course in the name of profit, the new hirees would have a lower pay scale. No, there was no need for a union; his employees were happy without a union.
When asked if there would still be an Alzheimer's unit, he answered that he would have to see, since assisted living would be more profitable. He stated he did not like star ratings; they are not an accurate picture of the home, so he had devised his own math for starts based on number of patient beds and occupancy, so his two-star facility was by his standards a 3.9-star facility.
Really? Now we can just throw out the state ratings?
When asked what his relationship with Marcus and Milichap was, his first answer was none. Then he said they were a broker in Chicago, but would not answer how much business he had with that firm.
When asked what type of negotiations he had with Mr. Edwards, he said zero, but that he met with Mr. Edwards and Steven Abdulla four months ago. Nothing of our 14 stipulations was mentioned. When he was asked how many of these 14 stipulations he planned to keep, he stated "I have no idea, we will have to evaluate what is OK and what's not important."
When asked how he plans to make a profit, he said, "By outsourcing clinical offices and administration." He would pay certified nursing assistants consistent with the market and offer a 401(k) plan for their benefits. When asked if he pays taxes he said "Yes, too much," but he does pay taxes. When asked how the company works, he said one person owns the company, another person runs the company, stating that is the standard way to do business in Chicago. It's not to avoid paying taxes.
When a letter was read from a Chicago lawyer familiar with the Rothner family, he kept interrupting, the slick, fast and loose comments.
He then had no further comments.
My seven year-old granddaughter likes to play games. When she isn't winning, she changes the rules so she will win. Mr. Edwards, stop playing childish games with people that have too much money to care, that word was pointed out as not having been said once in the entire conversation with Mr. Rothner.
This newspaper has posted many slanted things about the nursing home, the only not-for-profit home in the northern county. Legislators, remember this meeting, the sincere taxpayers that knew what was going on and the folks who had been led by the front page comments organized by Mr. Edwards and his purpose to run down the Chautauqua County Home, then sell it to the highest bidder without question.
Susan Baldwin is a Villenova resident.