Brooklyn resident Barbara Gartner, a former Long Island College Hospital patient, has filed suit to compel the New York State Attorney General’s Charities Bureau “to compel the release of records relating to the … Bureau’s approvals of invasions of the hospital’s $140 million Othmer Endowment Fund.” Ms. Gartner’s request for the records, made under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, was given a blanket denial by the Charities Bureau.
The story of how the Othmer Fund was created is told in this earlier post. The principal was supposed to be maintained in perpetuity and the income used for LICH’s benefit. LICH’s previous owner, Continuum Health Partners, got permission from the Charities Bureau to invade the principal, contrary to the terms of the Othmer bequest, for purposes that included posting collateral for loans. When ownership of LICH was transferred to SUNY, the balance of the principal was borrowed by SUNY, again with the Bureau’s approval, for use as a fund for the payment of potential liabilities of LICH. SUNY agreed that it would eventually replenish the fund, but later said it only would if it could.
Ms. Gartner’s case is supported by an advisory opinion of the New York Department of State’s Committee on Open Government, stating that the Charities Bureau’s denial of the FOIL request was “improper” and that “the denial appears to be inconsistent with the language and intent of the Freedom of Information Law and its judicial construction.”
The Cobble Hill Association, Concerned Physicians of LICH, and Patients For LICH have all issued statements supporting Ms. Gartner’s suit. Her lawyer, David A. Kaplan, said oral argument in the case will be held on Friday, September 26.