LICH Update – Article 78 petition filed regarding Othmer Endowment Fund

Below please find a press release issued yesterday regarding LICH, which the CHA is sharing for informational purposes to the community.

Brooklyn Resident Files Suit to Compel NYS Attorney General to Produce Records under Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)

Attorney General’s Office Denied FOIL Request for Charities Bureau Records Relating to Invasion of Hospital Endowment

Brooklyn, NY – August 27, 2014 – Brooklyn resident and former Long Island College Hospital (LICH) patient Barbara Gartner filed an Article 78 petition today in NYS Supreme Court to compel the release of records relating to the NYS Attorney General Charities Bureau’s approvals of invasions of the hospital’s $140 million Othmer Endowment Fund. The records were withheld by the Attorney General’s Office in a blanket denial of her February FOIL request. According to her attorney, David A. Kaplan, oral arguments in the case will be heard on September 26.

Additionally, groups including Patients for LICH, Concerned Physicians of LICH, and the Cobble Hill Association issued statements (attached) supporting Ms. Gartner’s request and the public’s right to the information.

In June, the NYS Department of State Committee on Open Government issued an Advisory Opinion (attached) calling the Attorney General’s denial of the FOIL request “improper” and stated that “the denial appears to be inconsistent with the language and intent of the Freedom of Information Law and its judicial construction.”

It is the role of the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau to represent the public, the ultimate charitable beneficiaries, in decisions relating to modifications of endowment restrictions.

The Othmer Endowment Fund was bequeathed to LICH in the late 1990s by Dr. Donald and Mildred Othmer, Brooklyn Heights residents who wanted to help ensure the future of their beloved community hospital. The funds, totaling approximately $140 million, were in a permanently restricted endowment, with the principal to be held in perpetuity and the income used for the benefit of LICH. But in a series of cy pres proceedings, hospital administrators obtained permission to invade the funds.

Most recently, in 2011, the Charities Bureau and the court approved the borrowing of the entire principal balance of the Othmer Fund to enable SUNY Downstate Medical Center’s no-cash acquisition of LICH, with SUNY assuming liability for repayment of the $140 million to the endowment. SUNY has now closed all but a small walk-in emergency department at LICH and has contracted to sell the LICH property to a real estate developer, who plans to tear down the hospital and build condominium towers.

Ms. Gartner’s FOIL request, originally made in June of 2013, asked for records of communications between the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau and the NYS Supreme Court, the Long Island College Hospital, Continuum Health Partners, and SUNY regarding its authorization of the 2006 and 2011 borrowings from the Othmer Funds. Challenging the Attorney General’s refusal to make these documents available to community members impacted by the decisions, she cites the language of the Freedom of Information Law, that “the people’s right to review the documents . . . leading to determinations is basic to our society.”

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