By Cady Kuzmich
REXFORD — Members of The Lutheran Care Network, which runs the Coburg Village independent senior living facility in Rexford, have been accused of misusing their power and intimidating residents while raising their own salaries in a report by the state Attorney General’s Office released in September.
Arguments in the case, which seeks to remove those officials fr om their positions, began in state Supreme Court in Albany on Dec. 21.
In June 2014, the TLCN board approved a 7.5 percent salary increase for Chief Executive Officer Frank Tripodi and Financial Officer Laraine Fellagara, according to the Attorney General’s report.
The board also voted to give Tripodi and Fellagara each a 7.5 percent bonus, based on the sale of affiliate organizations in Delmar.
When residents learned that despite a 2 percent increase in their rent their dining options could be changed, the budget became a major issue at Coburg Village.
A resident wrote an article questioning the management in the community newsletter.
“Tripodi was critical of the article, which evaluated budget cuts in the context of Coburg‘s public financial statements, which he viewed as ‘trouble-making,’ ” according to the report. Tripodi allegedly stated the resident’s lease “is coming for renewal in September and I have asked Rich to review our lease to determine if we can refuse to renew his lease.”
Tripodi referred to the resident in question as “the bad apple who continues to spoil the barrel.”
According to the Attorney General’s report, Tripodi “was angered by what he perceived as [Katherine] Pinney’s [Coburg‘s executive director] communication of internal issues to the residents and challenges to the decisions being made.”
Pinney was terminated 19 days after a meeting at which residents aired their concerns.
According to the Attorney General’s report, “Pinney’s file does not contain any information that documents a basis for her termination.”
The report charges that TLCN failed to “adopt a conflict of interest policy that complies with the not-for-profit corporation law” and “blatantly violat[ed] TLCN’s non-retaliation policy.”
TLCN also failed to distribute charitable assets appropriately, according to the report.
Schneiderman has called for the removal of Tripodi and Fellagara. The report reads: “These violations are continuing and have caused significant harm to the residents and staff of the Coburg affiliate as well as the potential for further abuses.”
The actions of more than a dozen other TLCN employees are being called into question as well.
Daniel Tuczinksi, an attorney representing those officials, was unavailable for comment.