The chief executive and president of the health system that runs Nassau University Medical Center was fired late Wednesday by the board that oversees the hospital.
Dr. Victor Politi was terminated after directors with Nassau Health Care Corp., the public benefit corporation also known as NuHealth, met in executive session for nearly three hours. The directors voted 9-0 to remove him.
The board did not address the cause of Politi’s firing, which was part of a restructuring of hospital leadership voted on earlier Wednesday night.
Politi, paid $368,387 in annual salary, was told to immediately relinquish his keys, identification cards, electronic devices, vehicles and logs owned by NuHealth. He is to be paid for another 60 days.
Ronald J. Rosenberg, Politi’s attorney, likened the proceedings to a “star chamber.”
“What happened here tonight was a gross violation of due process,” Rosenberg said. “We are completely unaware of the basis for what took place today, and Mr. Politi was excluded from the room, so we have no idea whatsoever what this is all about.”
Paperwork given to Politi gave “no indication for what the basis of the cause is,” Rosenberg said.
“We are looking very closely at all of our legal remedies,” Rosenberg said on Thursday. “It goes to some fundamental issues. This is a governmental entity. The way this is being handled raises a lot of serious questions about misconduct.”
Dr. Paul A. Pipia, the hospital’s chief medical officer, was appointed interim CEO and president in an 8-0 vote, with board member Warren Zysman abstaining.
As the board members deliberated Politi’s fate in private in a conference room on the hospital’s 19th floor, a group of hospital doctors and administrators milled about outside.
Before joining NuHealth in 2014, Politi had served as acting Nassau County police commissioner and a deputy county executive under former Republican County Executive Edward Mangano. Politi has also worked at NUMC as an emergency department physician.
In August, months before the election of Democratic County Executive Laura Curran, the board gave Politi a $50,000 raise and renewed his contract through the end of 2019. The contract had been set to expire Jan. 31, 2018.
In October, Curran held a news conference across the street from NUMC in East Meadow and discussed Politi’s contract extension. She called NUMC “another symbol of the culture of corruption.”
Curran, through her spokesman, declined to comment Thursday.
NuHealth chairman George Tsunis, a Curran appointee, and Politi spoke for several minutes after the meeting, during which Tsunis told him, “I don’t take any pleasure in this.”
The resolution passed Wednesday night does not include severance pay, NuHealth general counsel Megan Ryan said.
Politi’s contract allows the board to fire him for cause without severance for nine categories of offenses, including breach of contract, alcohol or drug abuse, fraud, and negligence. The contract says “cause” does not include “bad judgment” or any “act or omission reasonably believed . . . to have been in the best interests” of NuHealth.
Rosenberg said he believed the firing to be “a breach of his contract, and a breach of his civil rights,” and “we will undertake a review of what we’re going to do about it.”
NuHealth’s vice president for Security and Investigative Services, Michael J. Ferrandino, resigned Thursday. Ferrandino, hired by Politi, was making $180,000, and was a 25-year veteran of the FBI, for which he held roles including special agent, leading the FBI’s satellite Long Island office, and as field coordinator for the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.
Tsunis, in two months as chairman, has vowed to eliminate waste, patronage and corruption at the hospital, which cares for Long Island’s neediest populations. The board, under Tsunis, has voted to bar hospital officials from taking business trips to the Cayman Islands to discuss NuHealth’s offshore self-insurance facility.
In February, Tsunis brought in the legal services of former federal prosecutor George Stamboulidis and his Manhattan law firm, BakerHostetler, to review the hospital’s purchasing and contracting practices.
Earlier in the evening, the board hired veteran hospital executive Donald Ashkenase, who also serves as vice president of the Great Neck school board, to the $240,000-a-year post of chief operating officer. Another hospital administrator, Richard Rank, was appointed to the $185,000-a-year post as director of finance.
Tsunis said the two hires “have impeccable public safety net credentials.”
Jerry Laricchiuta, president of Civil Service Employees Association, Local 830, which represents 3,200 NuHealth employees, said that while he wished Politi well, “The hospital is in dire shape, it does need a change in direction.” He cited the need “to bring in some new talents, find money, re-staff the place so that we can take care of the patients the best way we can.”
He added, “I do think a change is needed, and there’s a lot more changes needed than Vic Politi. There’s been some already, but I hope they intend to make a few more.”