According to the Open Meetings Law, the Board of Trustees must make their meetings open to the public to allow them to comment.
On February 7, one day before the public was made aware that the SUNY board would be closing LICH, a meeting was held, which the court ruled was in violation of the law.
“It is the court's determination that the respondents notice was intentionally vague as to shield the public from the true purpose of the meeting,” read the decision by Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Johnny Lee Baynes. The decision went on to say that the meeting, “failed to meet the standard of transparency required by the Open Meetings Law.”
At the hearing, arguments were made by representatives of SUNY that delaying the closure of LICH will be detrimental due to the financial hole it is currently in.
According to Downstate officials, the hospital is facing a $40 million budget shortfall and will run out of money in less than a month
“We strongly disagree with the court’s interpretation of the events surrounding the Board of Trustees vote,” said David Belsky, a representative of Downstate. “The ruling hinges on a procedural technicality and does not question Downstate’s legal ability to seek closure for LICH.”
“Inaction and the status quo are simply not an option if we have any chance at succeeding,” Belsky said.
Downstate stated it will have their board vote again and submit the results to the Department of Health.
This decision is coming off of the heels of an earlier case in which Justice Betsy Barros issued a temporary restraining order to stop Downstate from sending out a 90-day warning notice to the staff of LICH stating that they would be laid off.
The board has also been criticized for taking into consideration the Cobble Hill real estate where the hospital is located. While representatives for Downstate have consistently refuted that accusation, it is estimated that selling the Cobble Hill property net an estimated $500 million.
Belsky would not comment on the allegations that the board had been discussing selling the property to real estate developers.
Following the decision to keep the retraining order alive, Jill Furillo executive director of the New York State Nurses Association said, “This victory is the first of many,”
“We are setting the stage to win safe staffing ratios, good contracts and benefits for all public and private sector nurses and healthcare for all New Yorkers,” she said.