A New York public hospital agency that settled a state ethics investigation earlier this year by paying $12,000 is now being criticized for a half-million dollar legal tab to fight the probe.
"This is absurd," said Jeffrey Gordon, a spokesman for state Comptroller Alan Hevesi.
"It's like acid on the sore," said Jane D'Amico, president of the Nassau County's Civil Service Employees Association.
The Nassau County Health Care Corp., formed in 1997 to runs the county's only public hospital, 631-bed Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, N.Y., on Long Island, a nursing home and seven community clinics, paid $12,195 to settle charges that employees, including former chief executive Richard Turan and several of his top aides, improperly accepted gifts from vendors.
But records released this week show that the corporation, which has laid off workers in the past year and has annual deficits in the millions, paid legal bills of $506,402.13.
Larry Gottlieb, chairman of the corporation's board, said the agency was obligated to defend the employees because they had been accused in relation to the performance of their jobs, not because they allegedly committed a crime.
"We have a responsibility to protect our employees, if appropriate, and to pay their legal fees until such times as it's clear that they have committed a crime," he said.