Monroe County will be able to drop its contract with the Center for Disability Rights on Nov. 8, but the agency is considering other legal options.
The county, which accused CDR of neglecting clients, notified the agency in July that it would immediately terminate the agency’s participation in the state-mandated Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program.
Supreme Court Justice John J. Ark, in a decision dated Wednesday, ruled CDR’s request for a hearing to set aside the county’s July 22 decision became moot on Sept. 8 when the county invoked the 60-day termination clause in its 2010 professional services agreement with CDR.
The center is the largest of six agencies providing home health care services for chronically ill and physically disabled people under the Medicaid program administered by the state Department of Health.
According to Judge Ark, both parties initially assumed they were operating without a formal agreement when they brought the matter to court following the county’s decision to cut ties with CDR. The county later concurred with CDR’s assertion that there was a one-year contract that commenced Jan. 1.
Under the contract, either party could terminate with 60 days notice. The county, in a Sept. 8 letter to the court, invoked its right to cancel the contract while also making no legal contention that it was terminated for cause.
The county had asked the court to deem its July 22 letter to CDR CEO Bruce Darling as its 60-day termination notice. Judge Ark rejected that, noting that since the county didn’t acknowledge a contract existed in July, its letter could not have been intended as a contract termination.
County Attorney William K. Taylor put the notice into effect Sept. 8 in a letter to Matthew J. Fusco of the ChamberlainD’amanda law firm, who represents CDR, thereby terminating the contract Nov. 8.
“We are pleased that the judge recognized that we had a contract and that the county acted improperly in July when they attempted to cancel it,” says a release from ChamberlainD’Amanda. “The decision states that the county did not take proper steps to cancel the contact until Sept. 8th and therefore the contract is still in place until November.”
Fusco said CDR, which has been providing services to county residents since 1998, had about 300 consumers, which was more than 80 percent of the county’s Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program. Fusco said about 200 have selected other providers, but only about half of them have been transitioned. The other half are still being serviced by CDR, along with at least 90 people who had not made a decision to switch.
Fusco said Darling and Chief Operating Officer Chris Hilderbrant were out of town, but that the three of them will be meeting next week to discuss their options, which include asking to be reheard; appealing Judge Ark’s decision; or filing a separate Article 78 request to be heard on a name-clearing issue, which Judge Ark didn’t address.
“We don’t believe that the county can just make those accusations against a social services agency and not be willing to let the public determine whether those accusations are accurate,” Fusco said. “We want the opportunity to clear our name and put them to proof, which they seem very reluctant to do.”
Fusco said the county accused of the agency of widespread neglect. He said consumers had the option every six months of choosing another provider, but none did.
“We are disappointed that the court failed to even rule on the part of our petition that raises the question of the county’s slanderous remarks about the agency,” says the ChamberlainD’Amanda release. “The decision does not address our request for a name-clearing hearing.”
Taylor said the county is pleased with the court decision and that it is time for all parties to move on.
“It certainly is in everybody’s best interest at this point for CDR to assist the clients in transitioning to other vendors,” Taylor said. “I think it’s time to move past the court case and focus on transitioning the clients to the five remaining vendors so that they can continue to get the services they need.”