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


At this point I was so sick that I was going to doctors several times a week—pulmonary, nephrology, neurology, psychiatry (this is making me nuts), physical therapy and nutrition—I’m locked in the damn system, trying to get healthy, and I can’t get to the doctor.  Every ride I need is getting screwed up.  Repeatedly, I’m left sitting in my wheelchair in the lobby of my apartment building with a doctor expecting me downtown, and no ride shows up.

The drill is to call Medicaid dispatch and wait on hold for about half an hour.  Get a surly, incompetent high-school drop-out call-taker.  The ride order variously gets sent to the right transportation company, the wrong one, or none.  The transportation company may or may not have been given the right day, time, pick-up point, mode of transportation and destination.  I missed a lot of appointments.  Two doctors were sending their secretaries to pick me up.

Then I found out that I was being followed by the county.  I came out of a doctor’s appointment and the transport driver told me that a car had been parked on the side street watching my doctor’s office.  The driver approached him, identified herself as being from the Dept. of Social Services, and questioned him about me.  She assured him that it was not about him, then drove off before I came out.

            I had done nothing wrong.  I had written a letter criticizing a government contract agency and suggesting changes.  Now I was being followed.  I would wake up in the middle of the night, listen to the darkness, and be afraid.  I wrote to the local chapter of the ACLU but got no response.

            Wayne Freeman said he didn’t have anything to do with me being followed.  The head of the Investigation Unit said he couldn’t tell me where the request for surveillance had come from.  That left Kathy Hart and her connections.  I had no other business with the Dept. of Social Services.  Now knowing that Hart was a two-faced liar, I didn’t bother to call her.

            After Kathy Hart sent me the email that was not written for my eyes, I went to church and prayed about the matter.  Then I wrote Kathy a polite letter telling her that I only wanted to work with her for the betterment of the system to serve all the twenty thousand or more recipients of Medicaid transportation.  The letter also let Hart know that I’d seen her email.

            What I think is that she initiated the surveillance of me because she’d gotten caught playing out of bounds.  She was looking for something she could use against me.  If she’d had to show cause to a judge to get permission to have me followed, she couldn’t have done it.  She had nothing—except participation in a corrupt system that had no moral foundation.  I would be followed if Hart and her cronies decided they wanted me to be, and the Constitution be damned.

            I was a poor, fat, middle-aged woman in a wheelchair:  why was the Dept. of Social Services so intent on shutting me down?

            I began to realize that I was also a very smart woman who was capable of logical thought, and I wasn’t afraid.  A few years earlier I had stopped taking antidepressants, cleared my head of pharmaceuticals, and gotten my brain back.  One of the things I did with my brain was read the Holy Bible—several times—and I got the message.  God gave me a brain to do a job.  My job was to improve the circumstances of the people in Onondaga County who were poor and sick.  Apparently God figured the best way to get me to go to work was to make me one of the poor and sick.

            I worked with God at my back.  If I listened and did what I was supposed to be doing, then God would take care of me.  Conversely, I could have gone to work for the county and relied on the Republican Party to take care of me.

            Oh-h-h, gosh, I had done that when I worked in the Comptroller’s Office and the consequence was that my boss shook me down for money for the Republican Party.  Funny thing about that—God doesn’t do shakedowns.

            My next move smacked of foolish naïveté.  I sent a written proposal to Hart that the Medicaid transportation dispatch center was unnecessary and should be shut down.  If I need a pharmacy, lab, or doctor, I choose one, make a direct call, and the pharmacy, lab or doctor verifies my Medicaid and schedules an appointment.  Why not do the same with medical transportation?

            Shut down the dispatch center and reallocate the funds to the vendors so they can hire their own personnel to do the job.  Pro-rate the funding to hire new people based on the number of rides each vendor has carried in the previous contract year.

            Hart never answered my letter.

            Unable to get DSS Assistant Commissioner Kathy Hart to deal with the problem—and unable to realize that she had no intention of changing the status quo—I went up another step and requested an interview with DSS Commissioner David Sutkowy.

            I was scheduled for a meeting with Sutkowy, then received a secretarial call “postponing” the appointment.  Subsequently, I called back to re-schedule but my calls were never returned.  Sutkowy wouldn’t let me talk to him.  Later, he would have a different version of events.

            Having worked my way up through the hierarchy of the Dept. of Social Services, I now turned to my legislator, Kathy Rapp, a Republican.  She came, sat in my living room, and listened.  Then she went out and talked to some people, unknown to me.  The only consequence was that the vendor who was carrying my rides stopped.  The Dept. of Social Services’ pattern of retaliation was so strong that my vendor dared not carry my rides anymore.  If I was talking to politicians then it was dangerous to be identified with me.  (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
This entry was posted in activism, advocacy, disability, Fraud, God, Government Services, Medicaid, Poverty, Power, Values and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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