SUNY Upstate’s $122 Million Boondoggle (Part II)


On May 19, 2011, I filed a complaint about SUNY Upstate’s Institute for Human Performance with the NYS Office of the Inspector General.  It assigned the case number NYSIG #0393-032-2011 and referred it to SUNY auditor Michael Abbot and that’s the last I heard of it.

I did not follow up in 2012 because of illness; I was referred to Hospice, endured two lengthy hospitalizations and twice was admitted to skilled nursing facilities.

In March 2013 I met with David Scarlossi, chief of staff for NYS Assemblyman Sam Roberts, and the subject of the empty Institute again came up.  On my way home, I wheeled into the Institute again.  Security has now been reduced to one bored fellow sitting in the lobby with nothing to do.  Why is there any security at all?  Document what he has done to justify paying for him.  Why is there no work for him to do?  Why is the Institute not being used?  Is there anything on the research floors that is so sensitive, vulnerable or expensive that it needs locked stairwells and security guards?

The gym had two office workers, one physical therapist, one patient and a hundred unused exercise machines.  A sign on the wall said call so-and-so to reserve space.  When I called the person, I was told “Oh, she hasn’t worked here for years.”  After thirteen years, do the machines even work?  How many patients have received physical therapy in the gym in the past thirteen years?  How many therapy hours have been billed?

From the lobby, I again assessed the forty windows on the top two floors.  Only eight of them had lights on.  The offices are “occupied” to the extent that there are books on the windowsills and file cabinets in the background but there are no people working in them.  Here’s what I know:  physicians at Upstate Medical Center are expected to teach students, treat patients and do research.  Here’s what I think:  every physician who has a research office in the Institute probably also has a clinical and/or academic office elsewhere in the hospital/university complex.  The question is not whether the Institute offices have been assigned; the question is are they used?  How many hours per week are the offices occupied?  Does any physician spend eight hours a week there?

Two weeks ago, I called SUNY auditor Michael Abbot.  He returned my call last week and reported that after receiving my complaint in 2011, he contacted Upstate Medical University and received in reply a letter from one of Upstate’s attorney’s justifying the use of the space.  Abbot dropped the case without doing an on-site investigation.  The SUNY auditor let SUNY Upstate investigate itself and find itself without fault.  When an auditor trusts a lawyer then the auditor should be fired.

On the day of my conversation with Abbot, he sent an investigator, Nancy somebody, to do an on-site tour of the Institute guided by the attorney.  Even though I was across the street the Auditor’s Office did not see fit to contact me for a citizen’s point of view, or any point of view that was contrary to SUNY’s.

I am old, sick and on Medicaid:  I want the taxpayer’s money spent on patient care not empty buildings!  I would guess that the taxpayers want the same thing and don’t know they’re not getting it.  SUNY Upstate Medical Center’s Institute for Human Performance has cost $122 million to build, not to mention the cost of operation.  Show me, dollar for dollar, what benefit the taxpayers have received for their money.

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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