Comments by Matthew Bruderman, nominated to head Nassau University Medical Center's board, that he would "mow down" trustees who oppose him and about distinctions between “good" and "bad racism” reflect long-standing issues — including politicization — on the NUMC board, officials and political experts said.
Bruderman, whom Republican Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman named as board chairman March 4, made the remarks on March 20 during an emergency board meeting, including in executive session.
The meeting was called to discuss a lawsuit by board member Ann Kayman, an appointee of former Democratic County Executive Laura Curran, alleging Blakeman improperly dismissed her from her seat so he could give it to Bruderman.
On Wednesday, a state Supreme Court justice issued a temporary order barring Bruderman from taking a seat on the board, while reinstating Kayman.
On Friday, an Appellate Division judge denied applications by Blakeman and Nassau Health Care Corp., which operates NUMC, to vacate the trial court's order, according to a copy of the appellate order provided by Kayman's attorney, David Mejias.
At the board meeting on March 20, Bruderman addressed trustees he said opposed his chairmanship.
"If you want to get on the other side of me, I'm going to mow you down," he said. "And I am the chairman. I'm going to be the chairman, and if you keep fighting that, I'm going to hold you accountable."
In executive session, Bruderman said he was interested in working with Democrats and was "still willing to put everything behind me."
He then said: "I tell my kids there's, like good racism, bad racism, you know from the standpoint of people's perspective they judge people, and I tell my kids all the time: You shouldn't get something because of your religion, your color of your skin, or whatever else. … And you shouldn't have it taken away, either. You should be blind, you should be agnostic. And those same principles should be here in this hospital."
Newsday obtained a recording of the executive session.
Bruderman, a financial adviser from Centre Island and a major Republican campaign donor, declined to be interviewed for this story.
"I will have a lot to say soon," Bruderman said in a text message this week.
A spokesman for Blakeman declined to comment Friday.
Asked about Bruderman's remarks at the board meeting, Adam Barsky, chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state board that controls NUMC finances, cited a NIFA report last year identifying political turmoil as a root cause of the hospital's fiscal and personnel problems.
The hospital long has suffered deficits, including a $100 million operating loss in 2020.
The 15 members of the board of trustees are chosen by the governor, the Nassau County executive and the presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature.
Barsky said Bruderman's comments amounted to "just people playing politics. The real issue is what is the right governance structure for the hospital in order to turn it around and keep it open and viable."
NUMC has "become a political football," Barsky said.
"In order to find a solution, one of the things that's going to be necessary is this whole issue about the governance structure, and I'm not sure the current one is working," Barsky said.
NIFA also controls Nassau County's finances.
Martine Hackett, an associate professor of public health at Hofstra University, said of Bruderman's comments: "That approach and attitude really sets the tone for this being not anything at all for the patients that come to NUMC, and it is very blatantly about power.”
Jay Jacobs, state and Nassau Democratic chairman, told Newsday: "In all my years in public service, I have never heard a more offensive and egregious set of comments coming from someone who has been appointed to such an important position."
Jacobs said, "After the remarks that he made, which are on tape, he should resign from this position."
A spokesman for Nassau Republican chairman Joseph Cairo did not respond to a request for comment late Friday.
In the executive session, Bruderman discussed a variety of topics, including NUMC's fiscal condition and his support of Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) for governor.
Bruderman said he had "already found" $16.5 million in hospital bills that went uncollected last year.
Bruderman, chairman of Bruderman Brothers, a privately held financial services holding company, said he would turn to his roster of celebrity clients to help turn NUMC's finances around.
"I manage money for celebrities; I've already spoken to a half a dozen of them," he said in the executive session. "We're going to do real fundraisers here, we're going to build a real endowment. We're going to make this hospital pretty."
Bruderman also said he would use his relationships with major companies to negotiate food prices.
"I'm going to use all my power, too, with the big institutions that I know, like Cisco Foods and U.S. Foods," he said.
"I'm going to tell them, 'You're going to be on my website, Black lives do matter, you're going to help illegal immigrants, you're going to get credit for helping a safety net hospital, you're going to be our savior. Instead of bread for $5, I want it for $2,'" Bruderman said.
Bruderman also expressed hope that Zeldin would be elected governor in November.
"I'm going to do everything in my power to make Lee Zeldin governor. I'm going to help him — I'm going to get everybody in the world to help him," Bruderman said.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams are seeking the Democratic nomination in the June 28 primary.
Bruderman decried an effort by some Democratic New York State legislators to allow the governor, rather than the county executive, to choose the NUMC board chairman.
"It's all well and good when the county executive's a Democrat, but now when he's a Republican, not so much," Bruderman said.
Last fall, as Blakeman campaigned against Curran, whom he defeated in November, Bruderman contributed $200,000 to the Nassau Republican Committee, according to state campaign finance reports.
On Friday, majority Republicans on the county legislature filed a resolution to appoint Bruderman to the NUMC board, replacing trustee Linda Reed.
Megan Ryan, general counsel for NUMC, told Newsday on Saturday: "The case will now be heard on the merits before [Nassau State Supreme Court Justice Randy Sue] Marber with both NUMC and Nassau County having a full and fair opportunity to be heard with submission of evidence in support thereof."
Thomas Adams, Nassau County attorney, said in a statement, “Once this case is fully litigated, the facts and law will demonstrate the County Executive’s appointment was correct.”