Both the Providence Journal‘s Kathy Gregg and WPRI’s Ted Nesi are reporting today that the State of Rhode Island, more specifically, the Executive branch’s Office of Health and Human Services (the Rhode Island Executive Branch being currently occupied, we should note, by Gina Raimondo), missed a critical court deadline to appeal a court ruling and thereby may have put state taxpayers on the hook for “$8 million annually for each year starting in 2016-17″. From Ted Nesi’s story about this disturbing and jaw-dropping situation:
The case involves a 2016 complaint by 59 Rhode Island nursing homes, challenging the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services’ interpretation of a state law cutting their rates. ….While the state won in an initial administrative hearing, on April 9 Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Lanphear reversed that ruling and sided with the nursing homes. Yet EOHHS took no action for weeks following his decision.
The Raimondo administration then missed the deadline to appeal, which would mean that the judge’s decision against the state stands, and was in court on Friday asking the judge
… to issue a stay of his decision, warning that otherwise the agency would need to immediately come up with tens of millions of dollars owed to the nursing homes under his ruling.
This situation is actually a double jaw-dropper. The attorney on Governor Gina Raimondo’s staff who was handling the case received notice of the judge’s ruling at two e-mail addresses. Look at what he did with at least one of the e-mails:
… a forensic audit of his work email determined he had deleted the message.
He deleted the critical e-mail about a high-stakes court decision involving his client, the State of Rhode Island. To do this involves an almost incomprehensible level of depraved indifference to a basic yet critical legal obligation on his part (to track and meet court deadlines ESPECIALLY THE DEADLINE TO FILE AN APPEAL) – and to the public dollars at stake.
He has been [correction]
cut loose placed on administrative leave by the Raimondo administration. But one of the big questions is, who is this (using the word loosely) attorney and how did he come to be in Governor Raimondo’s administration? Was he a carry-over that she allowed to stay? Did he simply respond to a “Help Wanted” ad by the Raimondo administration? Or was his employment in Governor Raimondo’s administration the result of her bargaining with either the Speaker or the Senate President to get what she had wanted in a prior budget year? He is not named in the WPRI story; presumably, it will be learned in due course as this involves public matters and resources.
Whatever his name and however he got on her radar, HOW DOES GOVERNOR RAIMONDO HIRE OR KEEP A STAFF MEMBER THIS GROSSLY INDIFFERENT AND IRRESPONSIBLE?
GoLocalProv reported interestingly yesterday that there have been few public events on Governor Raimondo’s schedule – and those few have been in safe places (a school; the Port of Providence, which is a secure TSA area). Is this stunning revelation why? The Raimondo administration knew that this litigation bomb was about to drop and they had the governor sheltering in place as best she can, with minimum exposure to the public?
This is another major, completely avoidable failure by Governor Raimondo and her administration involving the most vulnerable residents of our state as well as the unnecessary loss of precious resources to serve them. It follows closely on the heels of the UHIP disaster (actually a multi-wave disaster that is in no way close to being fixed) and the DCYF catastrophe.
Of course, the state Democrat party will stand with her. As the highest elected Democrat state official, she is their standard bearer, not to mention a woman (women can do no wrong — at least, Dem women cannot), so competency and job performance is not a consideration for them. Similarly, most of her contributors will probably continue to support her; they have an investment to protect. What I’m curious about is what newspapers around the state, especially the state’s paper of record, will do as we get closer to election season. Will they do the right thing and stay on the sidelines? Or will they disregard the serious incompetency, irresponsibility and indifference (not to mention blatant non-transparency) that has drenched her tenure to the real detriment of many Rhode Islanders, including our most vulnerable, and endorse her?
Kathy Gregg’s story in the ProJo not only names the attorney in question – Gregory Hazian – but both she and WPRI’s Ted Nesi report that Mr. Hazian lost his license to practice law in early January of this year – a little item that did not come to the attention of Governor Raimondo or her staff until more than four months later and then, only as a function of the missed deadline to appeal the court decision.
More questions arise: how did the Raimondo administration not know that he had lost his law license? What was he working on for the state from January 3 – May 23 that is now in legal jeopardy due to his lack of a law license?
One other item: a quick flip through the state’s transparency portal indicates that Gregory Hazian has been a “Senior Legal Counsel” for “Health and Human Services” since 2011, which is as far back as the transparency portal goes. This answers the question, then, about how he came to be on Raimondo’s staff: he was a hold over from at least the Chafee administration if not the Carcieri administration.
Note, however, it was on the watch of Governor Gina Raimondo that Mr. Hazian lost his law license without anyone noticing until it was too late and on her watch the state has probably blown this significant case. Accordingly, all other questions, especially those pertaining to a real pattern of incompetency and indifference by Gina Raimondo and her administration, still very much stand.