Nassau County Executive Laura Curran was expected to appoint George Tsunis, a former member of her transition team and a onetime nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Norway, as the new chairman of Nassau University Medical Center, according to a draft statement from Curran’s office.
Tsunis, president and CEO of Chartwell Hotels and a major Democratic fundraiser, is expected to be installed before the 15-member board of Nassau Health Care Corp., the public benefit corporation that runs the hospital in East Meadow and associated facilities, meets Thursday evening.
Tsunis’ appointment by Curran, a Democrat, does not require approval by the Republican-controlled county legislature.
During her county executive campaign last year, Curran criticized the health care corporation, called NuHealth, as “another symbol of the culture of corruption” because of patronage hiring and a lack of transparency.
Curran said in a draft statement Wednesday, “NuHealth has been ill-served by officials who underestimate its critical role in providing health care services to Nassau residents. George has a clear mandate to enact reform. In doing so he deserves the full support of the board.”
Tsunis said in the draft statement that he was “humbled” by the appointment. “As chairman, I will work to maximize the efficiency of center operations and examine past hiring and contracting practices with an eye toward improvement and increased savings.”
But legislative presiding officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said in an email that the “nomination is completely inconsistent with the mission of NUMC to serve our underserved and uninsured residents.”
State campaign disclosure records show Tsunis has been a large contributor to New York Democrats including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Tsunis contributed $35,000 to the Nassau Democratic Party last year, but did not contribute directly to Curran’s campaign, records show.
Tsunis in 2014 withdrew from consideration as Democratic President Barack Obama’s Ambassador to Norway after fumbling questions at his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing. Tsunis raised $988,550 for Obama and gave $300,000 to Democratic super PACs and $75,800 to the Obama Victory Fund.
After Tsunis acknowledged he had never been to Norway and mischaracterized its government, some senators and Norwegians opposed his appointment.
Tsunis is a former Republican who once worked as an attorney for the Rivkin Radler law firm. He switched parties in 2009.
The hospital board’s former chairman Michael Mirotznik, an appointee of former Republican County Executive Edward Mangano, resigned last Friday without giving a public reason for his departure.
NUMC Board member Bobby Kumar Kalotee, a former NUMC chairman who had hoped to be reappointed, said, he knows Tsunis as “a very smart man and I welcome him and I think he is going to be good for the hospital and its patients. I will support him the best I can to make the hospital a better place.”
Curran’s office and Tsunis did not answer requests for comment.