Under Cover of Darkness: Corruption in Onondaga County Government (Part II)


            So Wayne Freeman, doing business as Medical Answering Service (MAS), LLC, was botching the job and the result was that I couldn’t get to my doctors’ appointments, so I started asking questions.  One of the things I learned was that the county—I guess that would be Dept. of Social Services Chief Welfare Attorney Zach Karmen—gave MAS the contract before MAS existed.

            Yup, MAS got a quarter-million dollars of your money before they’d legally incorporated with the NYS Dept. of State.  As a matter of fact, MAS got the contract before they even had an office; they were just a Post Office box number.  Quarter of a million dollars in a post office box.  Wow.  Onondaga County politics.

When MAS did get an office—with the entire county to choose from—they picked a spot within a few feet of the Onondaga County Republican headquarters.  Saves on postage when you’re making your kickback payments—you can just walk them across the parking lot.

Actually, this whole thing starts a little farther back.  The Dept. of Social Services did put out an RFP—Request for Proposal—and receive bids for the Medicaid dispatch contract, and Rural Metro ambulance company won the bid.  It was a three-year contract but after one year Rural Metro gave it up.

Why would a company bid a contract like that, then give it up?  There are two theories.  One is that the work turned out to be too noxious and with too little reward.  They weren’t making enough money on it so they wanted out.  The other theory is that Rural Metro never intended to keep the contract—they were just a pass-through to get the contract to their employees, Freeman and Maxwell.

So comes the time when Rural Metro notifies the Dept. of Social Services that they’re turning the contract over to Freeman and Maxwell, and DSS says okay.  Years later, Zach Karmen justified this by saying that Rural Metro and Medical Answering Services were virtually the same company.  Okay, let’s look at that.

Rural Metro is a major national company.  It’s been running ambulances since 1969 and has thousands of employees in over four hundred communities.  One supposes that somewhere in the mix they also have accounting and human resource offices.  Wayne Freeman and Russell Maxwell, not yet incorporated to do business as Medical Answering Service, haven’t got an office or any established history in servicing a contract.

Medicaid transportation dispatch consists of telephones, computers and call-takers.  Medicaid patients call up and ask for a ride to the doctor.  The call-taker verifies Medicaid eligibility, takes the ride order and sends it to a medical transportation company.  When asked about his qualifications to run this telephone-computer-personnel company, Freeman said, “I was an ambulance driver for eighteen years.”

And Zach Karmen, judging for Onondaga County, says Rural Metro and MAS are the same thing.  How can this be?

One explanation is that Zach Karmen is the stupidest lawyer ever to walk out of Syracuse University and pass the bar.  The other is that money has changed hands and Freeman and Maxwell have bought the contract. 

Maxwell is the silent partner in all this, so for years the only name you’ll hear is Wayne Freeman’s, but I hadn’t heard his name yet.  I wrote a letter to the general manager at Rural Metro in which I listed seven problems and recommended seven solutions.  I try to be helpful.

In return I got a message from Wayne Freeman on my answering machine.  He told me “vendors” were refusing to carry me. That’s where the intimidation began:  you won’t be able to get any medical treatment if you don’t obey.  Scared out of my wits, I called Freeman and he said he didn’t understand any of my letter to the general manager; it was confusing.

I don’t write confusing letters.  I write clear, logical, sensible letters.  If Freeman can’t understand it then maybe he’s too developmentally disabled to have signed the contract with Zach Karmen.  Or maybe Freeman is just a liar whose first defense against things he doesn’t like is “It’s confusing.”  Those who know Freeman tell me it’s his first defense.  He understands but he’s not going to work with you.

Then Freeman tells me that now I have to place my rides through Jarrod Schupe, his right-hand man.  The harassment has started.  Because I exercised my right to free speech—my right to complain about government services—I now will be scrutinized like no other Medicaid patient.

            So I try to work with DSS Assistant Commissioner Kathy Hart, Medicaid director.  Kathy, you will recall, is the one who knew Wayne Freeman through the volunteer fire department.  Presumably, she’s the one who brought him to the county.  What I learn is that Hart is running Freeman; she’s his supervisor and teacher.  She’s got him on speed dial and computer and is in contact with him multiple times a day.

            When the government lets a contract, you sort of figure that it’s given to a company with an established history of competence, and that somewhere in the contract it says, “Send us a report every three months.”  Nope.  MAS is on the phone with the contracting department several times a day.  Kathy Hart had brought Wayne Freeman in, now she was acting as his supervisor.  Heaven only knows who was doing her job while she was doing Freeman’s job.

            I had been told by a businessman who tried to work with Kathy Hart that she was a two-faced liar.  I thought he was just pissing and moaning because he couldn’t get what he wanted, so I didn’t believe him until I got the emails.  The first email from Hart told me what a wonderful person I was and how much she was willing to work with me.  The second email—sitting in my box right behind the first email—said I was a troublemaker and a no-goodnik.  It wasn’t written to me but it was mailed to me.  Hart went on at length to recite as “facts” things that weren’t true and to end with a projection of future trouble.

            How nice.  Based on lies about my past, the government—in the form of Medicaid Director Kathy Hart—is now biasing what service I will get in the future.  (To be continued)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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