No, as it turned out, the ACLU could not help me. The local branch apparently consisted solely of an executive director with no staff.
I was sitting out there battering my head against Mike Addario, general manager of Rural Metro; Wayne Freeman, head of the Communications Unit at Rural Metro; and Kathy Hart, director of Medicaid in the Onondaga County Department of Social Services, without understanding what was really going on.
It took years, but little by little I picked up pieces and was able to put the story together. I believe that it began with the shakedown (https://annecwoodlen.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/the-shakedown-part-i/ ). What Special Prosecutor Peter Andreoli established in court was that in Onondaga County the Republican Party and the county government were engaged in a conspiracy to illegally elicit payments from county employees for the Republican Party. Kathy Hart worked in the Dept. of Social Services. She almost certainly was paying into the system that controlled her job.
And what she saw while she worked in DSS was that it didn’t matter if you broke the law. You didn’t go to jail. You didn’t lose your job. You didn’t suffer public shame. You went to court and then went back to your office. As long as you made your contributions to the Republican Party you would be protected. You would not be publicly pilloried in the newspapers, nor would they call for your resignation. What mattered was that you kept those payments coming to the Republican Party. The system would protect you if you paid into it.
Republican John Mulroy was county executive from 1961 to 1987; Republican Nick Pirro was county executive from 1988 to 2007. The Syracuse Newspapers were published by Stephen Rogers from 1958 to 1981, and his son, Stephen A. Rogers, from 1981 to the present. For half a century, the civic life of the half-million citizens of Onondaga County was directed by these four men, one of whom was convicted of political corruption that the others condoned and/or covered up.
And Kathy Hart, Onondaga County assistant director of the Dept. of Social Services in 2003, grew up under this system. Peter Andreoli may have put a stop to selling tickets to political fund raisers in county office buildings but anybody who thinks that also put a stop to county employees advancing their careers through donations to the Republican Party is more naïve than I am. “We have always done it this way,” was the defense of political crimes in Onondaga County. Change? Change? Bosh and nonsense.
According to the most reliable stories I heard, Kathy Hart and Wayne Freeman both belonged to the volunteer fire department of one of the villages. Wayne Freeman, in his own words to me, “was an ambulance driver for eighteen years.” That was his preparation to run the Communications Unit of Rural Metro ambulance company.
In Kathy’s words: “This might help explain the loop of confusion. Wayne and Jay [Shupe] work for Rural Metro, therefore Mike [Addario] is the supervisor. Wayne is the manager of the Communications Unit, and manager for several contracts (County & other) awarded to Rural Metro. As the Unit manager he is the direct line between the contract agency and Rural Metro, Mike has limited authority in the operations of the contracts. For the Medicaid Transportation, I am the contact between the County and Wayne, as the County Manager I have oversight of the operation and can make suggestions to Wayne. If Wayne fails to see that his staff provides a good service as detailed in the contract, the County at my suggestion can pull the contract and rebid the service. Rebidding is a complicated process, so we try to work out problems before the next mandated rebid, which is every three years.
“On this Way [sic Wayne] does report to both Rural Metro’s authority and DSS.”
About that rebidding thing and how it’s so complicated that Kathy doesn’t want to do it? Hart choose to violate the contract with the Long Island company, then put the contract out for re-bid. Several companies bid the contract and at least one felt there was unfair skullduggery that led to his bid being eliminated. The contract went to Rural Metro, with Kathy’s friend Wayne running the Communications Unit.
And what I was to learn was that this wasn’t some contract between the county and a private company wherein the company was supposed to file a written progress report every three months or so. This was a contract wherein the contractor and the contractee—Kathy Hart and Wayne Freeman—were on the phone and computer with each other several times a day. They both told me so. It looked to me like Freeman didn’t know what he was doing and Kathy was teaching him. So how did he get the contract if he didn’t know what he was doing? How, indeed?
On February 4, 2004, Kathy Hart again cut into her computer hookup with Rural Metro, reviewed my ride orders, and challenged me: “Why do you need a wheelchair on 2/6 and can walk on 2/7?”
My reply was “It is not a matter of what day it is, but where I’m going. On 2/7 the distance from the vehicle to the doctor’s front door is about eight feet. I do not waste the taxpayer’s money, and I do use the least costly transportation that is feasible. I am an intelligent, moral woman, and I wonder why you don’t credit me with that?
“Why are you monitoring me instead of the system, which doesn’t work? On at least two dozen occasions, I have filed orders by e-mail and they have not been filled.” The matter of wheelchair versus walking was to become one of Hart/Freeman’s favorite challenges to me.
Medicaid transportation operates at several levels, including ambulance, wheelchair, escort and taxi. Transportation by ambulance on a stretcher requires a doctor’s order for each trip and is the most expensive. Wheelchair transportation is a doctor’s standing order and means that the driver goes into the patient’s home and the doctor’s waiting room and wheels the patient to the van. Escort level of transportation means that the transportation company sends a car, the patient walks, and the driver comes into the home and the doctor’s waiting room to get the patient. This is particularly appropriate for people who are developmentally disabled, e.g., easily confused, or senile, e.g., easily confused, or use a walker and can’t stand very long. Taxi is what it is—Medicaid dispatch sends a cab and the patient stands around and waits forever for it to show up.