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Judge rejects union challenge of Saratoga County plan to sell nursing home

Tuesday, July 16, 2013
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— A state Supreme Court judge has dismissed the Civil Service Employees’ Association’s effort to block Saratoga County from selling its Maplewood Manor nursing home in Ballston Spa.

Judge Robert J. Chauvin ruled July 9 that CSEA Local 1000, which represents county employees, and three individual members who helped bring the suit lack the standing to sue over the county’s privatization plan.

The parties have shown no direct injury, Chauvin wrote in denying them standing, and also haven’t raised the kinds of issues that would get him to overrule a legislative body.

“The court notes, generally, that legislative acts carry with them the strong presumption of constitutionality,” he wrote.

The union, which represents Maplewood Manor’s employees, filed its lawsuit in March, asking that the county board’s action be declared “arbitrary and capricious.” The union is now considering its next move, CSEA spokesman Stephen Madarasz said.

“We respectfully disagree with the decision of the court on the standing issue and are considering our options, including appeal, and have not yet made a final decision on our future course of action,” he said.

The prospect of a private sale has worried the 325 county employees at the facility, who fear job cuts after the sale. That had led to criticism at public hearings on the plan and protests at some board meetings, as well as the lawsuit.

But Chauvin said concerns about how a future sale “may affect such employment” aren’t an injury sufficient to establish legal standing to bring a lawsuit.

The lawsuit asked the judge to find the Board of Supervisors acted illegally last November in creating a local development corporation that has taken ownership of Maplewood Manor in an interim step toward selling it to a private buyer.

Since 2011, the county board has been moving toward selling the infirmary, which loses millions of dollars a year. Last year, the Board of Supervisors determined the 237-bed nursing home is no longer needed for county use and can be sold to prevent future losses that could lead to tax increases.

That determination was “arbitrary and capricious,” the union argued. But Chauvin ruled the determination to sell the facility was within the board’s discretion and not subject to judicial review.

“It has been held that where legislative and executive officials have utilized their judgment to make determinations with respect to staffing appropriations, resource allocation and prioritizations of competing interests, such determinations are political questions and not justiciable,” he wrote.

The local development corporation was created because it will have more negotiating flexibility than the county itself would have. County officials have said they will make continued quality of care a priority in deciding on a buyer.

The expected timeline would have the sale completed by late 2014.

County officials blame Maplewood Manor’s losses on low reimbursement rates from the federal Medicaid program. Most of the elderly residents are on Medicaid.

 
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