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DA wants records in Foley grant dispute

The Suffolk District Attorney's office is seeking records

The Suffolk District Attorney's office is seeking records related to a $2.6 million grant received by Steve Levy's administration. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

The Suffolk County district attorney's office has subpoenaed records related to $2.6 million in state grants that the Levy administration obtained to buy equipment for the county nursing home without acknowledging the complex was being sold.

The state Dormitory Authority, which awarded the grant, froze any further payments to the county and has started its own review of whether the county complied with terms of the grant, a spokeswoman said.

The subpoena follows Suffolk Comptroller Joseph Sawicki's April 7 letter to District Attorney Thomas Spota requesting an inquiry into the grant and the process used to find a buyer for the John J. Foley skilled nursing facility in Yaphank.

"We reached a point in our investigation where I'm now compelled to ask the district attorney to intervene to get to the bottom of some very serious questions," Sawicki said Monday.

The subpoena seeks the comptroller's nursing home audit findings and work papers, which are to be turned over today, Sawicki said. Spota declined to comment.

Aides to County Executive Steve Levy said only that the administration is "fully confident in the legal and transparent process" of the sale. Equipment purchased with the Dormitory Authority grant is detailed in the purchase contract and "reflected in the sale price" of $36 million, the aides said.

Edward Dumas, chief deputy county executive, said the authority has not told the county about the payment freeze. The sale of the 264-bed facility, approved by the county legislature March 4, was disclosed to authority officials in a March 10 conference call, he said. "The notion that someone uncovered a nugget that anything was trying to be concealed is absurd," he said.

Susan Barnett, dormitory authority spokeswoman in Albany, maintained county officials never revealed plans to sell the nursing home and the authority only found out March 22. The authority has already paid the county $900,000 under the grant first issued in 2007. The freeze will affect $700,000 in claims for which the county is awaiting reimbursement and another $1 million, she said.

Levy's spokesman, Mark Smith, said the county did not disclose its plans earlier because officials were considering both a sale and continued public operation of the facility.

The developments come a week after Kenneth Rozenberg, a private nursing home operator, told the county he was withdrawing his agreement to buy the Foley nursing home and wants his $1.8 million deposit returned.

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