WASHINGTON CALLING: PRESIDENT WHISKS INTO WESTCHESTER FOR A-LIST FUNDRAISER. MAYOR ROACH, ROB ASTORINO, COUNTY EXEC AND LT. GOV MEET AND GREET.

WPCNR WASHINGTON CALLING. Special to WPCNR FROM PETER KATZ, Copy and Photos. May 21, 2015:

President Obama was in Westchester for a brief time Wednesday afternoon using the Westchester County Airport as the best way to get close to Stamford, Connecticut, where he attended a private fundraiser to benefit the Democratic National Committee.

The President went by motorcade to the event in Stamford, which was closed to the public and press. A report said about 30 persons attended each paying up to $33,400 to attend.

WPCNR’S cameras were covering the arrival and departure at the airport and provided these glimpses of the airport activity.

roachastroinohochulwaitforobama
A White House staff member waits at Westchester County Airport for the arrival of Air Force One with White Plains Mayor Tom Roach, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Hochul (Right), who were designated to welcome President Obama in Westchester. Photo from Video by Peter Katz
obamawalksdownairstairs
The President walks down the stairs of Air Force One after arrival at Westchester County Airport from New London, Connecticut, where he gave the commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy. Waiting to greet him but, blocked from view by the President’s limousine, were Roach,Astorino and Hochul. Both Mayor Roach and Astorino told WPCNR that President Obama was quite cordial, and their chat consisted of small talk, which included the President expressing enthusiasm for the number of golf courses in Westchester.
astorinoroachandhochulwalkawayfrompreslimo
After spending a few minutes chatting with President Obama, County Executive Rob Astorino, White Plains Mayor Tom Roach, and Lt. Governor Hochul walk away from the limousine as it prepares to take the President to a fundraiser in Stamford.
pressmileandwave
After attending the fundraiser for two hours, the President returned to Air Force One, and gave his familiar smile and wave before getting on board for the trip back to Washington.

 

AF1wheelsup
The wheels of Air Force One leave the pavement of Runway 34 at Westchester County Airport, beginning the trip back to Washington.

 

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White Plains Board of Education Budget Vote Goes As Expected. Passes by 79.5% percent. Lovitch, Letizia, Hricay Elected to 3 year terms.

WPCNR SCHOOL DAYS. News and Comment by John F. Bailey. May 19, 2015 UPDATED MAY 20, 2015:

There are 53 school districts in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam and every district except one opens polls early in the morning for people to vote before work.

Do you know the one who doesn’t?

White Plains NY USA—the excuse is it costs too much money to keep the polls open from 7 to 9 PM. This with a school budget of $205.8 Million up for approval today. I think the shortened hours is to hold down voter turnout. 

Well the strategy worked Tuesday again, if it is indeed a strategy.

The Tuesday vote totaled less than last year’s 1,100 votes, with 989 voting out of 31,000 registered voters. That is approximately 3% of eligible voters bothering to vote on the school budget.

I also learned last week that the $205.8 Million budget up includes a 2% raise across the board for 30 administrators…plus the district is hiring new teachers.  Again the budget has not been cut. It has been rolled over, and apparently Mr. and Mrs. and Ms. White Plains believe this is the way it should be, at least 4 out of 5 voters did yesterday.

7-CABINET6-ADMINISTRATOR SALARIES

The 2% raises for administrators  is a $4-3 Million payroll of administrators alone with an average salary of administrators being $145,000.

The district asked voters to approve their budget as they do every year because they said the budget is thoughtfully managed and makes the hard choices while retaining arts and music classes and sports programs and gives children a top education and the assessment scores that say it does not, are flawed. So they say.

One of those hard choices they made was to hire new teachers with the $2-1/2 million in new state aid money from Governor Cuomo and the legislature…money that may not be there next year and would require a 5% property tax increase to cover. But the voters felt this was O.K.

10-CANDIDATES

They reelected two incumbents, Rose Lovitch and Jim Hricay to the school board today, and a third newcomer,  Cayne Letizia a teacher in Valhalla. The other candidate for the   Michael Bellantoni a businessman with 614 votes finished behind Lovitch with 697 votes; Hricay with 677, and Letizia with 673.

The teacher, Cayne Letizia says he will look at the budget from a teacher’s point of view of what is necessary to do  to improve learning. The businessman, Michael Bellantoni says he thinks White Plains is a great school district and is not happy with the amount of testing done either, and promised to bring business practices to the district.

The two incumbents James Hricay and Rose Lovitch approved submitting this new budget.

But no matter that the budget is going up, as it does every year, the Board has to start asking the hard questions.

8-PROJECTED DEFICITS

The five year plan drawn up by the district Financial Committee has the school budget hitting $231 Million by 2019-20 in 4 years if the current rate of spending is intact. This is the exact figure predicted by WPCNR projections about a month ago. The district is projecting deficits the next three years.

Fred Seiler, Assistant Superintendent for Business told this reporter he expects that will not be hit…but instead will only reach $223 Million by 2019-20, instead due to savings on wages and health insurance. We shall see.

But there appears to be no will to cut by this new Board of Education.The tax payers are doomed to pay any miscalculation in this  5 year outlook outlook.

But the real issue is how good is the education, not how much money is needed to keep this district going at its same size and meeting all its priorities.

 

You might consider the district attitude toward its test results on the Common Core Assessments. You might consider the assessment tests too long and inappropriate for grade level, which may be true or not.

But last week’s U.S. News Index of 100 Greatest High Schools gives every school district in the county that consider themselves “great school districts of excellence,”  including White Plains a difficult puzzle to explain.

In looking at the U.S. News index of great high schools released last week which  lists great high schools as schools with a huge preponderance of  white students, and pre-selected student bodies.

The only Westchester Schools that made the top 100 list were Blind Brook  # 73 and Rye at # 81—with the next closest being Yonkers Middle High School at  # 121.

Significantly this was based on Advanced Placement Test College Readiness Exams results.

How did White Plains High School Do?

White Plains placed # 1,280 in the national rankings, and # 134th in New York State. Rye for example finished 11th in New York State.

It is worth repeating: White Plains placed 1,280 in the national best high school rankings and 134th in New York State.

Significantly though, of  41% of White Plains high school students taking the Advanced Placement College Readiness Tests, only 32% passed, this is very poor compared to other districts where the average is well over 90% of those taking advanced placement readiness exams passed. 

How do White Plains educators explain this  abberation? This should be one of the Board of Education’s first questions when they take up matters with our latest new Free Agent Superintendent of Schools.

In math proficiency testing  White Plains students, only 76% passed as proficient and 24% not proficient, while in English Proficiency it was 90% passing with 10% not proficient.

I do not know as a parent how to interpret this. I think parents who have students in the White Plains system have to start believing what results say and asking for educators to explain a results like this. The Board of Education should.

But what do they say?

How can educators say that on advanced placements given to the best and the brightest students in the high school only 32% pass college readiness exams?

 

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Governor Cuomo Explains His Parental Choice in Education Act: Tax Credits for Private Schools, Money for Tuition, Reimbursements for Teachers.

WPCNR ALBANY ROUNDS. From the Governor’s Press Office. May 18, 2015:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo Sunday rallied for the Parental Choice in Education Act, which will support and protect alternative school options for parents and students across New York State. Announced last week by the Governor, the Act will provide $150 million in education tax credits annually that reach across a variety of aspects in the education system.

The Governor joined parents, students, elected officials and community leaders​ at Yeshiva Shaare Torah in Brooklyn to rally support for the Parental Choice in Education Act. (View PHOTOS and VIDEO and hear AUDIO of the rally.)

Governor Cuomo also visited and spoke at four churches in New York City: Church of St. Mark Episcopal (PHOTOSAUDIOVIDEO)
The Concord Baptist Church of Christ (AUDIO)
First Baptist Church of Crown Heights (PHOTOSAUDIO)
St. Jude’s Shrine Church (PHOTOSAUDIOVIDEO)
“This is about fairness and this is about parents choosing the school that is right for their children,” Governor Cuomo said. “We must reward donations to support public schools, give tax credits to teachers who pay for classroom supplies out of pocket, and ease the financial burden on families who exercise choice in sending their children to a nonpublic school. I am pleased to join with local leaders who support these critical issues and understand how we need to get this done.”

The Act provides for $150 million in education tax credits annually that will provide:
1. Tax credits to low-income families who send their children to nonpublic schools,

2. Scholarships to low- and middle-income students to attend either a public school outside of their district or a nonpublic school,

3. Incentives to public schools for enhanced educational programming (like after school programs); and,

4. Tax credits to public school teachers for the purchase of supplies
400,000 students, or approximately 15 percent of all students in New York State attend nonpublic schools which provide an important educational alternative in virtually every corner of New York State – and especially so in communities where the existing public schools are failing. There are currently 178 failing public schools in New York State – many of which have been failing for ten years or more.

Despite their importance as alternative options for parents and students in failing schools, many parochial schools in New York State are experiencing financial hardship, and parents can face steep costs to enroll their children in such schools. Statewide, more than 75 parochial schools have closed in just the last five years, and average tuition can reach as high as $8,500 per student annually.

Therefore, the Parental Choice in Education Act will support important alternatives for parents across the state – especially important for low-income families.

Family Choice Education Credit
This $70 million portion of the Parental Choice in Education Act will provide credits to families of nonpublic school students. Families with incomes below $60,000 per year would qualify for up to $500 per student for tuition expenses to nonpublic schools. This will benefit approximately 140,000 children and approximately 82,000 families across the state.

Education Scholarship and Program Tax Credit
This portion of the Parental Choice in Education Act includes two components. The first provides $50 million in credits to support scholarships for low-income and other students in grades P-12 who attend nonpublic schools. The second provides $20 million in credits to fund educational programs at public schools and supporting not-for-profit organizations.

$67 Million in Scholarships for Low-Income Students Attending Private Schools in Grades P-12: This tax credit totaling $50 million will expand access to nonpublic schools for families who may not be able to afford tuition by funding $67 million in scholarships to help low-income and other students attend private or out-of-district public schools. Individuals and businesses can receive a tax credit for up to 75 percent of their donations made to not-for-profit organizations that award scholarships to students in grades P-12. Those organizations will award scholarships to private and out-of-district public schools based on financial need of the students’ families.

$27 Million for Public School Programs: Under this portion of the Education Scholarship and Program Tax Credit, public school students and educators will benefit from $27 million in new funds for education improvement programs. Individuals and businesses will be able to receive a total of $20 million in tax credits for up to 75 percent of their donations made to public schools and not-for-profits that support public schools’ educational programs, including Pre-Kindergarten and extended-day programs.

Instructional Materials and Supplies Credit
This $10 million component of the Parental Choice in Education Act provides a tax credit of up to $200 per public school educator to support the purchase of instructional materials and supplies for use in teachers’ classrooms. This credit will benefit educators and students throughout the state, and will be administered on a first come, first served basis.

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Westchester’s Own Al DelBello — Political Leadership and So Much More

 

WPCNR MILESTONES. A Personal Remembrance By Geoffrey Thompson. May 17, 2015:

In the passing of Al DelBello, Westchester lost a true statesman and native son.

The loss of an individual of his stature is particularly difficult to accept because for so long he has been an omnipresent figure in the county.

While many people knew Al in his later years for his sage advice and encyclopedic knowledge of all things Westchester, he first came into the public eye as a young man some 50 years ago when he began his lengthy career in government and politics.  Al was something of a boy wonder when he burst upon the scene in his hometown of Yonkers.  He became the city’s youngest mayor and brought a youthful spirit and wisdom beyond his years.

But it was when he was elected County Executive in the 1970s that he hit his stride, the first Democrat to be elected to the post. It was often observed at the time that Al and his attractive wife, Dee, were Westchester’s Jack and Jackie. It was not an inaccurate characterization. As a young reporter working at the Westchester Rockland Newspapers (predecessor to today’s Journal News/lohud) I along with the entire newsroom quickly realized that the stodgy County Office Building in White Plains had taken on a feeling of Camelot as the dynamic duo put a focus on the arts, the parks and so much more. Their presence was felt in social as well as political and business circles. With the DelBellos there was a palpable feeling of liveliness and fun that was new to the county. We hadn’t had a “first couple” before.

Al, however, was no empty suit. He thought big and he thought creatively. Two prime examples of this were the creation of a unified bus service in the county, today’s Bee-line System, and construction of the garbage-to-energy facility at Peekskill, which some 40 years later remains a state-of-the-art solution to a vexing problem.  And not to be forgotten is that the opening of that plant enabled the closing of the Croton Point landfill which was threatening to become Westchester’s Matterhorn. Al had the vision and the can-do attitude that took these projects from ideas to reality and today we all continue to reap the benefits.

I first met Al at the dedication of Muscoot Park on Route 100 in Somers. He was sitting at a picnic bench, wearing a pair of aviator sun glasses and chatting amiably with a group of reporters who pretty much followed everything he did. I was immediately struck by how at ease he was and how easily he mixed with everyone, young and old, wealthy and not so. He talked proudly about his ideas for the future of the beautiful Victorian era dairy farm with its extensive barn complex that today is one of the gems of the county’s expansive park system.  At a Friends of Westchester County Parks event about a year ago, Al and I were chatting and I mentioned that long ago first meeting with him at Muscoot.  As was often the case with Al, my remark prompted a question: “Do you know why we have Muscoot Farm today?”

I guessed that it had been bequeathed by the owner’s family but would have been too easy an answer. Al explained that the county had acquired the property and that the Parks Department had put forth a plan to create an ice skating center there, a Playland Ice Casino for the northern part of Westchester, as he put it.  Obviously that never came to be and Al explained why.

“One afternoon I decided to drive up and look at the property myself and Dee was with me.  When we got there she took one look and said:  ‘This needs to remain a farm.’  She fell in love with the beauty and felt it should become an interpretive farm where children and people of all ages can learn not only about Westchester’s agricultural past but how our food is grown and raised. Dee gets the credit for saving Muscoot Farm and it all began with that one chance visit.”

Dee was ahead of her time in thinking about food sources and healthy eating, but then that was the kind of thing that typified Al and his first lady in those days. The county government that few people ever gave a thought to, suddenly become an epicenter of creative thinking and new ideas. It was indeed a spirited and heady time.

As the years went by, Al moved on to be elected lieutenant governor and subsequently to the private sector eventually joining with Al Donnellan and Mark Weingarten in forming the prestigious and influential law firm that carries his name. I left the newspaper to form Thompson & Bender at about the same time and it was then that I  become friends with Al and Dee. And, of course, Dee and Al went on to buy the Westchester/Fairfield Business Journals and Westfair Inc. which Dee so ably oversees.

While I have enjoyed numerous business relationships with Al over the past 30 years, it was, however, another aspect of his life that I came to greatly admire in addition to his business and political acumen. Al not only liked visiting a farm like Muscoot, he created his own. Working in tandem with Dee, they took a wooded patch of ledge rock in a corner of northeast Westchester and created a remarkably tasteful and magnificent home and working farm. The first time I saw it, I was awestruck by the sheer beauty, style, décor and ambiance of their home. But that was only a precursor. What totally floored me was Al’s direct involvement in every aspect of the farm operation.

Turns out he loved operating a backhoe. He personally built the henhouse. He worked with the alpacas. And Al being Al, he understood their behavior. At the farm he was, quite simply, totally hands on. He was also handy and had the cleanest, best organized, most complete workshop I have ever set eyes on. That made me envious!  Now I knew why Al would be the first to show up at evening events, and about the first to leave. He had farm chores to attend to.

So Al was a genuine renaissance man. But beyond that he was a good soul. My fondest memory of him was when my wife, Liz, and I had the pleasure of being invited to a dinner at the DelBellos’ home several years ago. As to be expected, this was a lovely affair with an intelligent and diverse group of guests. And, again nothing unusual, there was an added attraction. They had invited a husband and wife, she an opera singer and he her accompanist on an accordion, no less.

After dinner, we all settled into comfortable chairs in the large living room to listen to a performance. Four or five dogs of varying breeds and sizes were also a part of the evening, free to wander among the guests or lie in the middle of the floor as they wished.  You see the DelBellos not only love dogs but they have rescued many from a wide range of often highly unpleasant and deeply sad situations. And they are full-fledged members of the household.

With the performance underway, I glanced around the room. And there was Al sitting at one end of a couch. One dog lay at his feet, one lay on the sofa next to him and the smallest was sitting on his lap – licking his Al’s cheek. Al was smiling. He was surrounded by friends.

In losing Al DelBello, all of Westchester has lost a friend.

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ALFRED DELBELLO PASSES AWAY. FIRST DEMOCRAT ELECTED WESTCHESTER COUNTY EXECUTIVE

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Alfred DelBello pictured during his term as County Executive in the 1970s
1934-2015

WPCNR MILESTONES. From Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino. May 16, 1015:

Alfred DelBello, the first Democrat elected County Executive in   Westchester County in 1974, succeeding Edwin Michaelian, died at the age of 80 Friday.

Mr. DelBello was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1982 when Mario Cuomo was elected Governor, resigning from that position in 1984.

DelBello  was also a principal of the  well-known law firm specializing in development law, DelBello, Donnellan, Weingarten, Wise and Wiederkehr in White Plains. He was also a leading personality of the Westchester County

The present County Executive, Robert Astorino issued this statement on the death of Alfred Del Bello today:

“It was with great sadness that I learned today of Al’s passing. We were from different parties but we were good friends and I always appreciated his advice and counsel.  Perhaps the greatest advice he shared with me, and something I’ve always adhered to is, always make sure you get home and spend quality time with your family.  The job is hectic but always make time for your family. And today, the thoughts and prayers of my family go out to the DelBello family.”

Mr. DelBello grew up in Yonkers and was Mayor of Yonkers before becoming County Executive.

He was a resident of Lewisboro at the time of his death.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

 

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SENATOR LATIMER TO WPCNR: COMMON CORE ASSESSMENTS WERE NEVER DESIGNED TO EVALUATE TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS. EDUCATION CONTRACT DETAILS SOUGHT.

12-LATIMER

State Senator George Latimer upper left, met with executives of Pearson–the international education publisher, creator of the 2013,2014, 2015 Common Core Assessment Tests Tuesday .

WPCNR ALBANY ROUNDS. WPCNR EXCLUSIVE BY JOHN F. BAILEY. May 16, 2015:

The new New York Assessment Tests calculated to measure New York students’ grasp of Common Core standards were never, according to the company that created the tests, meant to evaluate teacher performance, according to State Senator George Latimer of the 37th Senate District after a face-to-face meeting with Pearson executives  last Tuesday.

WPCNR believes the Senator is the first lawmaker in the capital to bring the creator of the tests in to talk about their tests.

State Senator George Latimer told WPCNR this week at the Council of Neighborhood Associations, and  as White Plains Week, the city news roundup show reported exclusively in its Friday night telecast,  that he met with key executives from Pearson, the international educational publisher  Tuesday afternoon in Albany about the content and intent of the last two years of assessment tests Pearson created for New York State.

Vic Mallison, Senator Latimer’s Chief of Staff, told WPCNR in a telephone call Wednesday identified the executives were Kevin Quinn of Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna; Alfred Binford, Managing  Director Assessment and Direct Delivery of Pearson and JC Considine, Director of Public Affairs, Northeast Region for Pearson.

Mallison confirmed what Mr. Latimer told WPCNR Tuesday that Pearson executives told them that the assessments they created the last two years and administered statewide “were never intended for use in evaluating  teachers (effectiveness.)”

Mallison also told WPCNR  Pearson emphasized their Common Core Assessment tests were created specifically to the terms of their contract with the New York State Education Department and were to measure the skills of students only in applying Common Core standards.

Asked about what the State Education Department contract with Pearson specifications are, Mallison said “We are in the process of obtaining that contract.”

The tests  have just completed the third generation of Pearson-prepared Common Core Assessment Examinations  throughout New York State this month.

The first two years of the administration of the tests have shocked previously highly regarded school districts such as White Plains and other districts in Westchester County like Scarsdale, Chappaqua, New Rochelle and Port Chester and hundreds more across the state by the low passing rates their students have achieved.

Teachers in White Plains, and School Superintendents statewide have rallied against Governor Andrew Cuomo’s just passed education legislation requiring half of teacher evaluations should be based on their students’ Common Core assessment test performances.

It seems, Senator Latimer said, that the assessment tests were never intended by the State Education Department to evaluate teachers.

 

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Westchester Medical to Pay $18.8 Million to Settle “SHAKEDOWN OF MEDICARE AND THE TAXPAYERS–Admits Misconduct

 

WPCNR WESTCHESTER LAW JOURNAL. From the U.S. Attorney’s Office. May 15, 2015:

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General’s (“HHS-OIG”) New York Region, and Diego Rodriguez, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today that the United States has settled civil fraud claims under the False Claims Act against WESTCHESTER COUNTY HEALTH CARE CORPORATION d/b/a WESTCHESTER MEDICAL CENTER (“WMC”) related to WMC’s alleged violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law and submission of costs reports to Medicare seeking reimbursement for charges WMC did not incur.

In connection with the settlement, which was approved by U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan on May 14, 2015, the defendant agreed to pay a total of $18,800,000 to resolve its liabilities, and made admissions as to its conduct.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “The conduct of Westchester Medical Center is the reason the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law are so important – they are laws that help to rid the healthcare industry of conflicts that can improperly influence medical judgment, potentially jeopardizing patient care and causing federal healthcare programs to pay for excessive or unnecessary treatments. Hospitals and medical practices have an obligation to patients, and taxpayers, to ensure their arrangements conform to the requirements of these laws.”

HHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert said: “Westchester Medical Center’s aggressive, intricate kickbacks and other fraud schemes in this case threatened the impartiality of medical referrals, the financial integrity of Medicare, and the public’s trust in the health care system. Our agency will continue to investigate those who seek to cheat federal health care programs.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Diego Rodriguez said: “Westchester Medical Center participated in a coordinated shakedown of Medicare and, by extension, taxpayers. Today, they agreed to pay more than $18 million to resolve their liabilities and enable this government program to serve the seniors it was designed to help.”

According to the complaint-in-intervention filed in Manhattan federal court:

WMC operates a tertiary and quaternary care hospital in Valhalla, New York, and serves as the primary clinical affiliate of New York Medical College. From approximately 2000 through 2007, WMC maintained a financial relationship with Cardiology Consultants of Westchester, P.C. (“CCW”), a cardiology practice formerly operating on WMC’s Valhalla campus, which violated the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law. In particular, the complaint-in-intervention alleges that WMC advanced monies to CCW to open a practice for the express purpose of generating referrals to the hospital. When CCW began making payments to WMC purportedly repaying the advances, WMC entered into retroactive, no-work consulting agreements under which it paid CCW tens of thousands of dollars.

Further, the complaint-in-intervention alleges that around this same time, WMC also began permitting CCW to use WMC’s fellows in CCW’s private office free of charge, contrary to WMC’s historic practice.

As a result, WMC’s submission of claims to the Medicare Program for services rendered to patients referred to WMC by CCW’s shareholder physicians violated the False Claims Act. Additionally, during the same time period, through cost reports filed with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”), WMC wrongly sought and obtained reimbursement for certain costs that WMC did not incur and that were not reimbursable under the relevant cost-reporting rules.

Under the Medicare Program, CMS makes payments to hospitals for inpatient and outpatient services after the services are rendered. Hospitals, like all healthcare providers, are required to comply with the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law, and in both cases, are prohibited from submitting claims tainted by such violations to the Medicare Program.

The Anti-Kickback Statute makes it illegal for a hospital to knowingly and willfully offer or pay remuneration to any person to induce that person to purchase, order, or recommend purchasing or ordering any good or item for which payment may be made under a federal health care program. The Anti-Kickback Statute arose out of congressional concern that remuneration given to those who can influence health care decisions would result in goods and services being provided that are medically unnecessary, of poor quality, or harmful to a vulnerable patient population.

The Stark Law provides that the government will not pay for certain designated health services prescribed by physicians who have improper financial relationships with entities to whom they refer patients because such financial relationships can compromise the physicians’ professional judgment as to whether a service is medically necessary, safe, effective, and of good quality.

As part of Thursday’s settlement, WMC admitted the following conduct:

  • Kingston Practice Arrangement. In July 2001, WMC, through its practice management affiliate, Matrix Resources, L.L.C. (“Matrix”), entered into a management agreement with CCW through which WMC agreed to assist CCW in establishing and developing a medical office located in Kingston, New York, with the objective of expanding WMC’s referral base and service area to the upper reaches of the Hudson Valley.
  • Pursuant to the terms of the management agreement, which had an initial term of three years, Matrix agreed to provide certain management services for CCW’s Kingston office and to advance working capital to establish and operate the office. Between 2001 and 2002, WMC, through Matrix, advanced to CCW approximately $450,000 to pay for certain costs of the practice, including payment of the monthly management fee due under the management agreement.
  • The management agreement provided that CCW would repay the advances at a rate of 8.5 percent interest by the end of the three-year term, with the proviso that the management agreement could be extended for one year if full repayment had not been made.
  • In July 2002, CCW and WMC began discussions regarding the termination of the management agreement. At the outset of these discussions, WMC received a memorandum from CCW requesting that WMC, among other things, postpone or eliminate certain interest payments, reduce the applicable interest rate to the then-market rate of 6.5 percent, and extend the repayment period in recognition of CCW’s efforts in developing clinical volume at the Kingston practice and the resulting referral benefit to WMC.
  • As of April 25, 2003, CCW and WMC executed a promissory note and associated letter agreement providing for immediate termination of the management agreement and repayment of the then-outstanding advances over five years at an initial interest rate of 4.75 percent (subject to periodic adjustment based upon changes in the prime rate), beginning with an initial repayment of $116,936.15 on April 28, 2003.
  • In addition, on April 25, 2003, three days prior to CCW’s initial repayment of the advance, WMC and CCW entered into a two-year consulting agreement, retroactive to July 2, 2002. Pursuant to this agreement, CCW was to provide various consulting services to WMC for an annual amount of $50,000. In April 2004, the contract was amended and extended.
  • Between April 2003 and July 2005, WMC paid CCW approximately $190,000 under the original and amended consulting services agreement.
  • WMC was not able to locate evidence that CCW performed the contracted services under this agreement.
  • During the period of approximately April 2003 through July 2005, CCW referred patients for hundreds of medical procedures at WMC.
  • Fellows. For certain years during the relevant period, WMC charged various physician practices for a portion of the salaries and expenses relating to residents and fellows who trained at WMC. During the relevant period, fellows in WMC’s cardiology fellowship program performed certain services within CCW’s private offices as part of their regular clinical rotation.
  • Prior to 2003, CCW paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to WMC for the salaries and expenses relating to cardiology fellows.
  • Beginning in 2003, CCW ceased paying the fellowship charges for which it was invoiced by WMC; after continuing to bill CCW, but failing to compel payment, WMC wrote off these amounts as uncollectible in April 2007.
  • Cost Report Reimbursement. From 2000 through 2007 (“relevant cost report timeframe”), WMC submitted annual Medicare cost reports to the Health Care Financing Administration (“HCFA”), and later CMS, reflecting certain costs, referred to as Direct Graduate Medical Education (“DGME”) and Indirect Medical Education (“IME”), associated with its residency and fellowship programs.
  • Pursuant to certain HCFA/CMS regulations applicable to the DGME and IME lines of Medicare cost reports in effect during the relevant cost report timeframe, hospitals were permitted to claim reimbursement for time spent by the residents or fellows at other hospitals and non-hospital settings only if the hospital incurred all or substantially all of the salary and fringe benefit expense of the residents and fellows being rotated through other hospitals or non-hospital settings and complied with other applicable regulatory requirements.
  • For the relevant cost report timeframe, WMC included certain costs in its filed cost reports that corresponded to time spent by certain residents and fellows at other hospitals or at non-hospital settings, but did not incur all or substantially all of the costs associated with these fellows and residents, or otherwise did not meet applicable HCFA/CMS regulatory requirements.

WMC also agreed to pay $18,800,000 to resolve its liabilities for this conduct.

*                      *                      *

Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the agents at HHS-OIG and expressed appreciation for their dedication to the case. Mr. Bharara also praised the investigative work of the FBI.

The case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Frauds Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Rebecca C. Martin and Christine Schessler Poscablo are in charge of the case.

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Legislators Work out Plan to Save CSEA Jobs, Benefits if Standard Amusements Takes Over Playland. PUBLIC HEARING SCHEDULED FOR MAY 20 ON STANDARD’S PROPOSAL

WPCNR PLAYLAND GO ROUND. From the Westchester County Board of Legislators. May 14, 2015:

One major question that was addressed at Wednesday’s continuation of meeting of the Labor Parks and Housing Committee on the Standard Amusements proposal to manage Playland  was the disposition of current County employees who work at Playland.

A public hearing was announced for public comment to the Board of Legislators on the Standard Amusements proposal.

That hearing will be conducted at a special Labor Parks Housing Committee meeting next Wednesday at 7 PM in the BOL Chambers.  The meeting is a public forum for input on the proposed management plan for Playland.

 

On the union labor issue involving county employees now employed at Playland, Standard Amusements indicated that they recognize the value of the county employees’ experience, institutional knowledge and commitment to Playland and would like to hire as many of those employees as practical.

CSEA (Civil Service Employees Association) leadership made the point that the public employee pension system which many employees are enrolled in would not be transferable to a private operator.  Standard indicated that they would be open to contracting with the County for the services of those employees needed so that they could stay in NY State Pension System.

Deputy County Executive Kevin Plunkett affirmed that any County Employees who did not find suitable employment with the private operator would be transferred to alternate positions in Parks or another County Department.  CSEA leadership indicated that they were satisfied with the assurances from Standard Amusements and the Administration.

Planning Commissioner Edward Buroughs reported that because the BOL was considering a management agreement and not a plan which includes proposals for specific, physical work at Playland, the Agreement is a “Type II” action under SEQRA which means it has no significant impact on the environment and therefore requires no further environmental review.

Additional environmental reviews could be triggered in the future as specific proposals for capital projects come before County Commissioners and the BOL.

Following an overview of the actual contract document with representatives of the County Attorney’s office, Legislators asked both the Standard Amusements team and the County Attorney’s office to consider clarifying or altering certain language in the agreement or to memorialize certain commitments to the agreement through a Memorandum of Understanding.  These considerations will be taken up at subsequent committee meetings.

Video of Wednesday’s meeting can be seen by pasting this URL into your browser, http://westchestercountyny.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=3729

Legislators and representatives of Standard Amusements toured the Amusement Park last week.  Video of that tour can be seen at https://vimeo.com/127279007

The LPPH  Committee will meet next Wednesday at 9am to continue discussions on the Management Agreement.

 

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Peter Bassano on Why He is Leaving Board of Education after 13 Years

WPCNR SCHOOL DAYS. STATEMENT FROM PETER BASSANO, WHITE PLAINS BOARD OF EDUCATION to WPCNR. MAY 13, 2015:

I have been on the school board for 13 years.   I have decided that it is time to step down for several reasons but primarily because of my increased responsibilities and time commitment at work.

In order to do be an effective school board member and to add value to the process, the time commitment is substantial.  In addition to the meetings and the various other events requiring School Board presence, the considerable “homework” that needs to be done in order to make informed decisions usually means working late into the night.   This is far too important a job to do in a desultory manner.

While I am proud of the work we have done, I am also immensely frustrated by the many impediments to effective public education that a local school board can never overcome.

The changes that are so desperately needed in public education, more and more, seem out of reach and the misguided, politically expedient and usually ineffective solutions proffered by politicians in Albany and Washington fail to address directly the true problems with public education.

Moreover, these poorly crafted and horribly implemented “solutions” not only fail to correct the target problems but usually create new problems that further distract educators from the tasks at hand.

In my years on the Board, have had the opportunity to work with some extraordinary educators and gifted leaders – both in our schools and in our community.  They are people of integrity, people of honor and people who are eager to give their precious time for the greater good.  Working with these exceptional people has made me a better person.

I have great faith in, and tremendous admiration and affection for, the School Board members who are continuing on.  They are some of the smartest, most dedicated and honorable people with whom I have ever worked.

I am also thrilled that Dr. Paul Fried (incoming Superintendent of Schools) will be captaining the ship and Michele Schoenfeld, Clerk to the Board of Education will be his first mate.  I am confident that he is the right person to lead our district and that Michele will continue to be the district’s font of wisdom and experience.

Mostly, I will miss the kids.  I have also been privileged to witness firsthand how our schools transform the lives of the beautiful youngsters in our charge.  I will be forever grateful for this marvelous opportunity.

While being on the Board has certainly enriched my life, it is time to move to the next chapter.

Thank you John for your hard work.  There is little more important in the operation of our community than the free flow of truth.

Peter

 

 

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