A former top executive for NuHealth, which runs publicly funded health care facilities in Nassau County, pleaded not guilty to two counts of official misconduct Friday after authorities unsealed an indictment in a Mineola court.
Authorities say Larry Slatky, NuHealth's former executive vice president of operations, broke the law by giving a publicly run nursing home's laundry contract to a friend's company instead of hiring the lowest original bidder.
Slatky ignored requests for comment as investigators led him to court in handcuffs and again after he left with his lawyers following his arraignment.
Nassau County Judge Philip Grella released Slatky, 64, of Cold Spring Harbor, on his own recognizance after accepting his plea.
Assistant District Attorney Jason Herman requested $5,000 bail, saying the defendant put his own interest and that of a friend -- whom he didn't name -- ahead of the community's interests and was facing up to a year behind bars for each misdemeanor charge.
But defense attorney Brian Griffin told Grella that Slatky was a married father of five who surrendered voluntarily yesterday morning to face the charges and wasn't a flight risk.
In 2010, authorities said, Slatky ordered that a laundry service contract for A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility in Uniondale be awarded to FDR Services Corp., a company run by a friend. The company hadn't put in the lowest bid after NuHealth's purchasing department received seven sealed bids, but Slatky negotiated a new lowest bid from the company, according to the allegations.
The five-year contract was worth about $100,000 a year, according to authorities.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice's office said Slatky's actions violated NuHealth's procurement policy, saying the negotiating of post-bid decreases can only be done "with the lowest responsible and responsive bidder."
Rice said in a statement that the rules for awarding public contracts "are designed to ensure fairness for bidders and to protect taxpayers."
Griffin said after the arraignment that Slatky served the county "with distinction" for 13 years. Slatky saved Nassau millions of dollars through his efforts, and patient care was improved at every facility he ran, the Garden City attorney said.
"We are very confident that when all the charges are flushed out in an objective light, they simply will not stand. Any suggestion that Mr. Slatky did anything criminal is simply false," Griffin said.
He added that prosecutors aren't alleging that Slatky financially profited from the alleged crimes.
"When we start prosecuting people for what could be considered simple mistakes in contracts, I think that's a very dangerous thing to do," Griffin said.
Great Neck attorney John Martin, who also represents Slatky, said a purchasing director had the authority to decide who the winning bidder was, not the defendant.
Slatky has won credit from some community leaders in the past with helping to turn the nursing home around.
The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. attorney's office cited the nursing home in 2004 for violating residents' civil rights by providing inadequate care. The facility later entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Justice Department to make needed changes.
Slatky became head of the nursing home soon after the Justice Department probe started. In 2009, he became responsible for supervising daily operations at all NuHealth facilities, which include Nassau University Medical Center and several clinics that serve the poor. He resigned in March.
A spokeswoman for NuHealth, a $545 million public benefit corporation also known as Nassau Health Care Corp., declined to comment on the criminal case.
With Ridgely Ochs