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George Tsunis takes over as NUMC board chairman

George Tsunis during his senate confirmation hearing to

George Tsunis during his senate confirmation hearing to be the Ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway on Jan 16, 2014. Credit: US Senate

Long Island businessman George Tsunis said Thursday he had signed his oath of office card and was ready to chair his first meeting of the 15-member board of directors of the Nassau University Medical Center.

“I believe in transparency and openness,” Tsunis, 50, said in an interview. He said his plan is that, “we institute the best practices in corporate governance and that we provide the best possible health care.”

As expected, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat, appointed Tsunis, chairman and CEO of Chartwell Hotels, as the new chairman of the board for the Nassau Health Care Corp., the public benefit corporation that runs the hospital in East Meadow and associated facilities. The position is unpaid.

“This is a very important institution,” said Tsunis, of Locust Valley. “It provides a vital service to the underserved. There is no room for politics or games . . . The stakes are too high and we will all be judged as a society on how we treat our citizens in the most challenged economic neighborhoods.”

He called NUMC “a safety net hospital and for many people this is sometimes the only place where they can receive medical care.”

During Curran’s campaign for county executive last year, she criticized the health care corporation for its hiring practices and lack of transparency.

The former chairman, Michael Mirotznik resigned last week, giving no public explanation for his departure.

Tsunis was a member of Curran’s transition team and is a major Democratic fundraiser, though he did not contribute directly to her campaign.

State campaign disclosure records show he gave $35,000 to the Nassau Democratic Party last year. He also has contributed to state Democrats including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Tsunis, a large contributor to former President Barack Obama, was appointed by Obama in late 2013 to be U.S. Ambassador to Norway. Tsunis withdrew as a candidate after he fumbled questions during his Senate confirmation hearing.