Opening statements in the corruption trial of a former public health system executive kicked off Wednesday with the prosecution claiming Larry Slatky abused his power to make sure a friend got a laundry contract for a publicly financed Uniondale nursing home.
But the defense countered that a good-faith mistake by Slatky, 65, of Cold Spring Harbor, wasn't a criminal act, that he wasn't the person who awarded the contract and that the deal also saved taxpayers money.
Slatky, the ex-chief operating officer of Nassau Health Care Corp., pleaded not guilty last year to two misdemeanor counts of official misconduct. The $545 million public benefit corporation, also known as NuHealth, runs county health facilities that include Nassau University Medical Center.
Prosecutors say that in 2010, Slatky had subordinates give a contract to FDR Services Corp. of Hempstead -- a friend's company.
But defense attorney Brian Griffin claimed Wednesday that the whole case came from the Nassau district attorney's office "over-scrutinizing procurement policy" in order to "squeeze out a public corruption charge."
Prosecutors contend Slatky renegotiated a new lowest bid for a contract for personal laundry services for patients at A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility with FDR, even though FDR hadn't put in the lowest original bid among seven sealed bids.
"The evidence in this case will show the defendant interfered with the bid process," Assistant District Attorney Jesse Aviram told Nassau Supervising Judge Christopher Quinn at the Mineola trial.
The prosecutor also said the head of a company known as JVK Operations Ltd. of Amityville that also put in a contract bid had a meeting with Slatky in which Slatky said he would give the contract to a friend if JVK didn't lower its bid for general laundry services. Aviram said JVK agreed to lower its price and won that part of the contract -- which was split off from the part of the contract that went to FDR.
However, Griffin said Slatky acted in NuHealth's interest by negotiating with the lowest responsible bidder to save more money after the health system's chief executive asked Slatky to help get a 15 percent savings across the board.
The Garden City attorney also said the probe started after NuHealth brought a complaint to prosecutors about missing laundry that was costing the hospital money. Griffin suggested JVK -- as a laundry contractor -- turned the case back on Slatky by suggesting there was something wrong with the contract process.
A NuHealth buyer, Lynn Tarling, testified later Wednesday that according to a procurement policy, a vendor could negotiate with her on a bid, but no one else.
But during a cross-examination, Tarling said she never went to Slatky and said the contract was going to the wrong people, or that the award to FDR violated rules, and never filed a grievance.
Her testimony continues Thursday.