Edward Farbenblum, former chairman of the board that runs Nassau University Medical Center, has resigned as a trustee after Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman filed notice of state charges to remove him from office, and county sheriff's deputies served him with legal papers at home.
Blakeman, a Republican, said in a complaint that Farbenblum breached his fiduciary duties while on the board of NuHealth, the public benefit corporation that runs NUMC and the A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility in Uniondale.
Blakeman's seven-page complaint said Farbenblum failed to file required financial disclosure forms; sought "preferential hiring" of a former business associate; failed to "execute direct oversight of NHCC's [Nassau Health Care Corporation] financial management"; failed to "maintain confidentiality of attorney client communications"; and aided "litigation filed against" NuHealth by another board member.
Farbenblum, whom former Democratic County Executive Laura Curran appointed to the board last February, operates 17 private nursing homes in New York State. He resigned as a trustee on May 3, NUMC spokeswoman Niki Jones said.
Farbenblum, 39, of Woodsburgh Village, said he did not formally contest Blakeman's charges.
"As far as I understand the matter is closed, and I don't have further comment," Farbenblum told Newsday in an email on May 13.
Chris Boyle, a spokesman for Blakeman, said: "The County Executive has no comment on Mr. Farbenblum."
Jay Jacobs, state and Nassau Democratic Party chairman, called the charges against Farbenblum "bogus," and said he resigned under duress.
“He’s got a nursing home business, and they were threatening to take an action against him that he would have to report to the regulatory authorities that creates problems for his licensing,” Jacobs said of the Blakeman administration.
“For personal reasons, this is not what he signed up for," Jacobs told Newsday. "He signed up to do good work, which he did. I think it’s shameful.”
The charges against Farbenblum reflect the sometimes intense infighting among Democrats and Republicans on the NuHealth board since Blakeman named Matthew Bruderman, a financial adviser from Centre Island and a major GOP campaign donor, as chairman on March 4.
At a board meeting on March 20, Bruderman told trustees he accused of opposing his chairmanship: "If you want to get on the other side of me, I'm going to mow you down."
NUMC, which treats large numbers of uninsured patients and patients on Medicaid, has struggled with persistent operating deficits that reached $102.3 million in 2020, according to auditors.
Curran, whom Blakeman defeated in November, appointed Farbenblum as chairman of the 15-member NuHealth board last May, saying his experience in health care management would enable him to turn around the troubled medical center.
Blakeman filed his charges under state Public Authorities Law 2827, which permits removal of board members of any state authority for, "inefficiency, breach of fiduciary duty, neglect of duty or misconduct in office."
NuHealth is considered a public authority.
Any entity that appoints a public authority member can attempt to recall appointees for cause, according to the law.
The authority member must receive a copy of the charges, "and an opportunity of being heard in person, or by counsel, in his or her defense … ."
The trustee has 10 days in which to contest the charges. Farbenblum told Newsday he did not file a response.
The Blakeman administration declined to provide a copy of its charges against Farbenblum, but Newsday was able to obtain a copy from another source.
According to the charges, drawn up by Chief Deputy Nassau County Executive Arthur Walsh on April 15, Farbenblum failed as board chairman, "to ensure that the 2022 [NuHealth] budget was filed."
Jones, the NUMC spokeswoman, said NuHealth is operating with "an interim budget," and "we are currently working on finalizing a 2022 budget."
The complaint also said Farbenblum had "failed to hire a Chief Financial Officer."
Walsh wrote: "It was imperative to have a CFO at the helm in order to have an executive charged with controlling costs, improving productivity, and analyzing revenue strategies … ."
NuHealth trustees terminated former chief financial officer John Maher in 2020, before Farbenblum joined the NuHealth board. Richard Rank, NuHealth’s director of finance, has assumed CFO duties during the search for a permanent replacement, Jones said.
In explaining the "preferential hiring" charge, Walsh said Farbenblum attempted to hire a former chief operating officer of Vestracare, a nursing home company run by Farbenblum, to a $350,000-per-year job at A. Holly Patterson.
The charge that Farbenblum failed to "maintain confidentiality of attorney client communications" stems from a dispute involving Ann Kayman, a Curran appointee to the NuHealth board who in March sued to block Bruderman's appointment.
Kayman alleged that Blakeman tried to dismiss her improperly in order to make room on the board for Bruderman.
The Blakeman administration said Curran had appointed Kayman illegally just before departing as county executive in December.
Kayman's lawsuit is in state Supreme Court.
Blakeman's charges allege that Farbenblum shared with Kayman "numerous confidential and privileged e-mail communications and text messages" between him and NuHealth General Counsel Megan Ryan to "aid" Kayman's litigation against the public benefit corporation.
The charges say Farbenblum also shared the communications "with Newsday reporters in an effort to undermine the public confidence" in Blakeman's appointment of Bruderman.
The charges do not elaborate on Farbenblum's alleged interactions with Kayman and Newsday.
The charges state the alleged sharing of communications by Farbenblum "a breach of fiduciary duty and an act of misconduct."
Concerning the issue of Farbenblum's financial disclosures, Walter McClure, spokesman for the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics, where state officials file their disclosures, confirmed Farbenblum did not file financial disclosure forms last year.
Forms are due every May 15, and anyone who joins a state board before that date in any year must submit a disclosure form, McClure told Newsday.
John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, a nonprofit that advocates for transparency in New York State government, said filing of such charges against a public authority official is “very unusual.”
In an email to Newsday, Kaehny called the process “totally one-sided because the County Executive can use government officials to investigate, prosecute, and pursue the entire process, whereas for the board appointee, who is a volunteer, who is doing this as an extra part of their life, they have only what they can pay for out of their pocket,” to defend themselves.
Jacobs, the Nassau Democratic leader, said: "The whole thing here is this: If you're looking to find things that you can on a technical basis … or make something look like something, you can do it for anybody,"
Farbenblum "is in the nursing home business, so he is subjected to scrutiny by regulating authorities, so any accusation made publicly is going to damage his regular licensing and oversight," Jacobs said.
Jacobs continued: "For the County Executive to do this, and threaten someone's livelihood because he disagrees with them, is to me unconscionable and demonstrates the type of administration he's choosing to run."
David Mejias, Kayman's attorney and the Oyster Bay Democratic leader, told Newsday: "These are trumped-up charges meant to intimidate [Farbenblum] into resigning. This is nothing short of a … shakedown."
Jacobs noted Farbenblum told him that he was served Blakeman's papers by Nassau County Sheriff's deputies, which Jacobs characterized as “a misuse of power.”
Asked about the use of deputies to serve Farbenblum, Nassau Undersheriff Anthony LaRocca told Newsday in a statement: "Deputy Sheriffs regularly serve process regarding county business and have done so for previous county executives and the county legislature. It is in our normal course of business."