By Joe Mahoney
---- — Otsego Manor Director Edmond Marchi shooed several people out of a meeting county officials had last week with residents of the nursing home that is now facing closure, according to three people who said they were asked to leave the meeting.
The meeting took place last Thursday at the nursing home, after a committee of the Otsego County Board of Representatives “recessed” from its regular monthly meeting at the Manor, said Rep. Katherine Stuligross, D-Oneonta.
Stuligross, chairwoman of the Otsego Manor Committee, said she did not consider the meeting with the Manor residents to be open to other members of the public, even though all four members of the committee were in attendance.
“It was just a get-together,” she said. “We wanted the residents and their families to be there. I did not consider that an official meeting.”
An attorney with the state Committee on Open Government said she had a different opinion on the matter.
“Unless a public body has grounds for an executive session, and there is a quorum present, and they are discussing public business, the business must be discussed in public,” Camille Jobin-Davis said .
Marchi, who is not a member of the Manor Committee and is not an elected official, did not return telephone calls seeking comment. County officials said the Manor’s operating deficit has ballooned in recent years due to reductions in reimbursement rates for federal health programs and escalating operating costs and pension obligations.
Among those told to leave the meeting were Civil Service Employees Association Karen Carpenter, who represents unionized workers at the home, two advocates for patients, Maureen and Fred Culbert of Springfield, and a Manor transportation aide, Tony Effner.
“This is unacceptable and it’s unfair, and I don’t know how they think they can get away with doing this,” Effner said.
Carpenter said Marchi did not cite any legal basis when he ordered those who were not invited to the meeting to leave it.
“Marchi just kicked us out of the meeting,” she said.
Effner said Maureen Culbert, who has been a leader in the effort to oppose privatizing the Manor, “was almost in tears when Marchi told us we had to get out.”
Ellen Coccoma, country attorney, who had attended an earlier executive session, did not return a phone call late Friday morning regarding the closure of the meeting.