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CEO siphons money, quality of care declines

Published on November 8th, 2009

Palm Beach Post had an article about the incredible compensation given to an absent CEO of a  group of nursing homes. Most of the money comes from taxpayers.  Chief Executive Officer Maxcine Darville, a former dress shop owner with a nursing license, has taken home $404,000 in annual compensation from the Okeechobee Council on Aging Inc. and the Council on Aging of Florida Inc.. That’s more than double the state and U.S. averages for CEO pay at nursing-home nonprofits of comparable revenue, according to survey data.  Various nursing homes in Pahokee, Gainesville and Bradenton are funneling more than $1 million a year through a maze of nonprofit corporations that benefit a CEO, along with her daughter and son, a Palm Beach Post investigation shows.

Among The Post’s findings:
Darville’s daughter, Assistant CEO Joanne "Jody" Watson, was paid more than $200,000 plus $23,000 in expenses from the two councils. She received $160,000 a year later. Darville’s son, Gary Watson, the director of maintenance, was paid nearly $118,000. Darville has spent more than $30,000 on annual expenses. She took out a $50,000 loan from the parent council. She gets $1,200 a month to board an unnamed "visiting executive" in a residence she owns.

One member of the board of directors that the Okeechobee Council on Aging lists in 2009 state corporate records, Martha Stoner, died two years ago. Another, Johnie Blevins, said she was "forbidden" to talk to The Post.

Other allegations include nonprofit funds have paid for cars – including a BMW 325ci with a base price of $32,300 and a Cadillac Escalade with a base price of $57,465 – or a $1,708 whirlpool tub with Roman Tub Faucet ordered from a Home Depot in Johnson City, Tenn., and delivered to a Newland, N.C., address where Jody Watson is a part-time resident.

Receipts show the daughter writing checks to herself and other family members on an account for the Okeechobee Council on Aging Inc., doing business as Big Lake Housing – an apartment complex the nonprofit owns next to Glades Health Care Center in Pahokee. On the same day in March 2005, for example, Jody Watson signed checks of $1,000 to herself and her mother and one for $1,200 to her brother without a notation for the purpose, receipts show.

Checks on that account also have paid for tens of thousands of dollars in credit card charges over several years at businesses such as Kahootz Draft House in Okeechobee, Cloud 9 Spa Salon in Gainesville, Burdines, Dillard’s and hotels in North Carolina and Tennessee, receipts show.

The executive compensation saddens and baffles the family of Doris Bullock, a patient at Glades Health Care Center who died last year at age 88 from internal bleeding after an unexplained blow to the head.  The family is still seeking answers about how a frail woman who needed help getting into a wheelchair could sustain a traumatic head injury, and wind up back in her bed with no one the wiser.

"It’s frustrating," Bullock’s granddaughter Felisha Whitehurst said. "That’s taxpayers’ money, and it’s not being spent sufficiently where it should be."

Darville’s $30,385 expense allowance works out to $14.60 per hour in a standard work year – more than the $11.43 median hourly salary of a nursing aide, orderly or attendant in the state, according to research by Florida International University.

In a separate investigation, a Glades Health Care worker was convicted of elder abuse in 2007 for slapping an 89-year-old patient in the face and saying "I can’t stand you," according to state records. A year earlier, the nursing home had rehired the certified nursing assistant months after she got out of jail on charges related to forgery, investigators found.

Riverfront Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Bradenton was placed on a watch list with a conditional license from the state last year. AHCA inspectors cited 31 violations since July 2007, faulting management for, among other things, its handling of a suspected abuse case. In records filed in January of this year, Darville signed a settlement as CEO of the Bradenton Council on Aging LLC agreeing to pay $13,500 in fines and fees. The facility has been removed from the watch list but maintains a one-star rating, as does a sister facility, the Gainesville Health Care Center.

Meanwhile, patient advocate Anna Spinella of Tampa has a word for hefty executive pay and perks at nursing homes with troubled records: "Obscene. The purpose of a nursing home is to care for residents."

 

Joe Pioletti
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