Montefiore’s former administrator will face a state administrative hearing May 4 and May 5, 2022, according to Deborah Veley, executive director of the state of Ohio Executive Board of Long-Term Services and Supports.
The hearing for Ariel Hyman will determine whether to suspend or revoke his state license as a nursing home administrator “and/or impose any other sanction.” It is based on his part in an alleged COVID-19 testing falsification incident that took place at the nursing home on Oct. 13, 2020.
“Ari Hyman cannot comment substantively at this time as the matter is still open,” Hyman’s lawyer, Matthew Gurbach of Bricker & Eckler in Cleveland, wrote to the Cleveland Jewish News in an Aug. 30 email. “He looks forward to presenting the facts in the appropriate legal setting.”
Hyman and Montefiore’s top two nurses – Tina King, director of nursing, and Marie Gelle, assistant director of nursing – were fired Oct. 29, 2020, Menorah Park CEO James R. Newbrough wrote residents and family members the day of the firings. Menorah Park and Montefiore, both Beachwood nursing homes, affiliated July 1, 2020.
Tests for 33 residents on one unit of Montefiore came back negative after King and Gelle allegedly sent falsified swabs for testing. When the residents were retested, all came back positive within 16 days.
King and Gelle are both facing hearings before the Ohio Board of Nursing Oct. 20 to Oct. 22, and are also under criminal investigation, their lawyer, Steven A. Sindell of Sindell & Sindell LLP of Beachwood, has said in court filings.
“You told the director of nursing to ‘send off the swabs’ and ‘do what you need to do to control the survey,’” the June 3 opportunity for hearing notice from Veley to Hyman reads.
That notice also said his actions constituted “incompetence, untrust-worthiness, dishonest practices or irresponsibility in the practice of nursing home administration,” accused him of “fraud and deceit,” said he was “unfit or incompetent to practice nursing home administration,” and said his actions constituted “a substantial deviation from the board’s code of ethics.”
In an Aug. 30 email to the Cleveland Jewish News, Veley wrote the May 2022 hearing will be public and take place at a location to be announced, “but most likely will be located within the Department of Aging’s facilities” in Columbus.
As to the timing of the hearing, Veley said, “I’m being told that this is a pretty typical track for a hearing, especially one where the respondent is potentially facing criminal charges.”
Veley, who has been with the agency for eight years, said this will be about the fourth such hearing that she will attend.
Veley said she would subpoena anyone that Assistant Attorney General Melinda Ryans-Snyder, Hyman and his lawyers wish to appear.
“I would imagine it would be several,” said Veley, adding testimonies will take place before a hearing officer, who would be one of the attorneys that has a contract to function in that role before the Ohio Department of Aging.
Testimony would be given and the attorneys would make arguments.
Afterward, “we have to wait on the hearing officer to issue their report and recommendations,” Veley said.
The hearing officer’s report and recommendations will be delivered to Veley, who would then send it to Hyman and his lawyers.
“And they have to have a certain period of time to examine that and make any objections that they want to make,” she said. “And then it kind of depends on the board meeting schedule timing as to when that decision would be made.”
As to the investigation, “We’ve, you know, given everything over to our attorney general and actually put out the charges so it’s pretty much complete,” Veley said, adding that she is “always open to new information.”
Two lawsuits have been filed based on the alleged COVID-19 testing falsification.
In a lawsuit filed by King and Gelle, they claim they didn’t falsify COVID-19 testing, claim they were wrongfully terminated and that the CEO and COO engaged in a cover-up scapegoating them in order to deflect their own mismanagement.
A wrongful death lawsuit was filed on Dec. 15, by the family of James Mockabee, who was a Montefiore resident. The family claims Montefiore and the three former employees “negligently, recklessly and with malicious intent” improperly implemented measures to control the spread of COVID-19 and were conducting “improper testing and falsifying tests.” Mockabee died after having been diagnosed with COVID-19.