An Open Letter to Westmoreland County Voters

A few weeks ago we learned that state investigators were fining the County’s nursing home, Westmoreland Manor, for significant deficiencies in patient care. I wanted this disturbing report released to the public as soon as we received it. Commissioners Tyler Courtney and Charles Anderson overrode me and hid the results as long as they could. They were justifiably embarrassed by it.

While refusing to release the report, Commissioner Courtney told the Tribune-Review that “no findings were related to patient care”1 and that the report focused on “structural issues.” Courtney later told the newspaper that “no patients were injured or neglected.”2 He and Anderson even went so far as to contend that these problems existed before a new management company took over the administration of the Manor. That simply isn’t so. As the Tribune-Review reported, “state records show previous state inspections found no similar deficiencies.”3

Courtney wasn’t being truthful with the press, with the families of the patients or with the public. He was well aware that most of the reported problems had, in fact, a lot to do with patient care. With the use of catheters. With meals served at unsafe temperatures. With inadequately installed bed rails. With the lack of fire drills. Any of these problems could be life-threatening to people who are already sick, already weakened. They are serious issues and a Federal investigation now follows with even more fines to come.

Why would Tyler Courtney and Chuck Anderson try to deceive us? Courtney was the key vote to replace the company that had successfully managed the Manor for twenty years in favor of a new one that promised to do the same job for less money. The skilled nursing staff and direct care workers at the Manor are working as hard as ever. What changed is the management company.

I voted against this change. The previous management group had been doing a good job at a fair price and we never saw deficiency reports like this one. I have a lot more experience in County government than either Courtney or Anderson and have learned that unrealistically low price quotes most often lead to performance problems. This situation is a perfect example.

Commissioner Courtney’s judgement was faulty on this issue as it has been on many. Since Courtney has taken office we have been subjected to partisan bickering, political vendettas and shoving matches in the hallways. As was widely reported, Tyler Courtney was even investigated for making death threats against another Republican elected official.4 Our County Courthouse has not witnessed this level of discord among its elected officials in modern history.

Courtney and Anderson have spent an awful lot of our tax dollars firing people who were doing their job but weren’t Republicans. They have spent hundreds of thousands of our dollars in legal bills and financial settlements as a result of these political firings. We taxpayers are footing the bill for all of this including now paying people who were good employees to stay at home instead of coming to work.

They privatized our Human Resources Department by giving the work to an outside firm without a public bidding process. That debacle has doubled our costs without offering us any additional benefits. Why? Politics. The cost? They don’t appear to care about spending our tax dollars when it comes to taking care of their friends, or punishing their enemies. But when it comes time to take care of the elderly, the ill and the helpless they’re all about saving a buck.

During the economic downturn I was part of a County government that kept our core functions amply funded by both carefully watching our costs and judiciously using our “rainy day” money to keep us from raising taxes. Four years ago these two Republicans ran for office with a promise to make our government leaner, to stop drawing down on our reserves and to make the operation more efficient. They have failed on every count. Despite a much improved economy, they’re drawing down our “rainy day” money faster than ever — our savings account went from $41 million to $16 million under their watch. Meanwhile, they’ve padded their pockets with questionable travel reimbursements while being treated to lucrative golf trips by the moneyed special interests.

It isn’t working out as they told you it would when they were running for election. Its time to change course.

Before becoming a Commissioner I spent eight years working in County government. I took office with a thorough understanding of what the County’s functions were, how they were performed and who actually did the work. During my first year as a Commissioner I was instrumental in making positive, cost- effective changes because I truly understood the operation of government. Since Courtney and Anderson teamed up we’ve been watching our money being thrown around like it doesn’t matter and frankly, they don’t seem to even care.

After almost four years as the majority Commissioners, it’s time they stopped blaming the Democrats for the problems they’ve failed to solve or brought on themselves. I expect that they will picture me with the President, with the Governor and with maybe even New England quarterback Tom Brady in negative mailers just before the upcoming election. Of course, I have no more to do with Tom Brady than I do with the President but fake advertising pictures might divert you from asking about the real problems at hand.

It isn’t working out as they told you it would when they were running for election. Its time to change course.

We have an opportunity to take back our County government in this election. I’m asking for your support on November 3rd so that my experience, depth of knowledge and heartfelt concern about doing the right thing for our citizens can lead Westmoreland County in the direction we all want it to go.

1, 2, 3 Tribune-Review August 22, 2015

4 Tribune-Review, April 22, 2015