The temporary receivership for Pillsbury senior living facilities in South Burlington and St. Albans is now permanent.

In January, temporary receivership of Allenwood at Pillsbury Manor and Pillsbury Manor South in South Burlington and Homestead at Pillsbury in St. Albans was granted by Vermont Superior Court to Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer of South Burlington. 

That action came after horror stories were raised about living conditions and management systems at the senior living facilities, including rent checks not being deposited and employees buying food for tenants because food-service bills were not being paid.

In June, permanent receivership was granted to Spinglass of Portland, Maine, and Mark Stickney, its founder and chief business officer, said Pam Cota, licensing chief with the Vermont Division of Licensing and Protection.

East Lake Capital Management of Dallas and its owner Andrew White had acquired the senior living facilities in May 2017.

Cota said that the state began receiving complaints about the senior living facilities in the summer and fall of 2018.

Disturbing stories

Court records from the November 2018 case include disturbing stories about residents’ living conditions and strange or non-existent management practices. 

Stickney said they are hoping to find a buyer for the facilities and seemed confident of finding one. “If you’re going to buy a stock you would want to buy it after a crash,” he said.

Stickney said that this receivership was a unique situation in that it is not due to financial distress. “I’m very grateful that the issue of financial instability isn’t an issue in this situation.”

Stickney said that he didn’t know why White wasn’t depositing rent payments. 

Cota said, “That’s the million-dollar question.”

The general allegations portion of the court records say, “Since February 2018, Mr. White has been exhibiting increasingly abnormal and concerning business practices, including: closing bank accounts suddenly and without warning to staff; failing to collect rent from all residents in all facilities; failing to timely pay vendors for their services to the facilities resulting in the receipt of shut-off notices and threats from vendors and utilities to stop services.”

The court records also say that similar scenarios occurred at other facilities owned by White in Texas, Tennessee and Indiana.

Unreported death 

The Vermont case cited an incident where a resident had fallen twice in one day and was taken to the hospital where they subsequently died. State law requires residential care facilities to report when a resident dies unexpectedly, but this death was not reported.

There was also a report of a resident who was taken to the emergency room who hadn’t received “timely treatment” after complaining of ill health. The emergency department staff found the resident’s underwear “soaked with urine and feces that ‘disintegrated’ when the (emergency department) nurse touched it.”

The November 2018 case reported situations where employees had to work 100-hour weeks because of inadequate staffing and staff exodus.

Cathedral Square, a nonprofit organization with 25 residential care facilities around Vermont, was recruited in January to assist Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer with human resources services for the troubled Pillsbury properties.

“We hadn’t really done this type of technical on the ground support for such a large community before,” said Laura Wilson, director of operations for Cathedral Square. She said that many in the Pillsbury community looked askance at the nonprofit organization and wondered how they would work with a for-profit corporation.

“I think the residents were pleasantly surprised by the time we were winding down. Many of them didn’t want us to leave,” she said.

Now, after a half a year of temporary receivership, Stickney said that he was impressed with how well the staff is doing their jobs and the positive attitude of the residents and their families. “This is a management team that’s done a really good job despite the commotion,” he said in a telephone interview and he lauded “the amazing dedication of the staff.”

After a number of “town meetings” with residents and their families, Stickney said, “I was surprised by all the positive responses by the families. One of the family members said, if this is how well his mother is treated in the worst of times, how well she will be treated in the best of times.”

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