A 30-page court decision issued last week details a disturbing timeline regarding reports of mismanagement and neglect at four Pillsbury senior living communities.
The decision to uphold the appointment of a temporary receiver comes three months after the state appointed a lawyer to oversee daily operations for three South Burlington senior communities. Washington County Superior Court Judge Mary Miles Teachout has issued a damning decision in the legal battle supporting those claims.
In the meantime, Cathedral Square is aiding authorities with righting the ship of the troubled Pillsbury senior living facilities, Allenwood at Pillsbury Manor, Pillsbury Manor South and Harborview in South Burlington, as well as Homestead at Pillsbury in St. Albans.
All four were put under the charge of a temporary receiver to correct erroneous business practices in November 2018.
The Jan. 25 ruling states that surveys by state agencies revealed insufficient reserves of food at all three facilities under the state’s care. At one South Burlington location, it was discovered that anti-seizure medications had been given late and that a resident was left unattended and experienced mental and emotional harm.
Payments to Reinhart, the company that supplied food to the facilities, were either missed entirely or paid late, leaving dining managers to tinker with their menus and scale back their offerings.
Court documents stated that in early November, the dining manager at Allenwood and Manor South reduced the amount of entrees offered from three to two. At Allenwood, where residents were used to being served, the meals were changed to buffet style, but residents who were visually impaired and had difficulty walking found it difficult to safely navigate the new arrangement.
Teachout’s ruling stated that the breakdown in food service “contributed further to the distress of residents and the sense of an unstable living environment.”
At one time, electricity to at least one facility was in danger of being suspended by Green Mountain Power for lack of payment.
Court documents also reveal that staff members used their personal credit cards and Costco cards to buy food and supplies for residents at the facilities when promised funding from the owner never materialized.
Andrew White bought the facilities in May 2017, registering each facility under the LLC Eastlake Capital Management. Things began to derail the following February, when one of the main company bank accounts was frozen and staff was unable to deposit rent checks or use the company credit card, court documents state.
In November 2018, the Attorney General appointed attorney Douglas Wolinsky of Primmer Piper, Eggleston and Cramer in Burlington, as the receiver for the four facilities to rectify much of the ensuing malpractice. Wolinsky has experience managing estates and is a member of the Turnaround Management Association.
A ban on admissions at Allenwood was lifted Thursday, Jan. 24, after state surveyors found the facility to be operating in full compliance with state regulations, said Clayton Clark, Director of the Division of Licensing and Protection at the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living. Though Pillsbury South has not yet reached this level of compliance, progress is being made, Clark said.
“All of the things that we had previously identified as concerns were things that have been corrected,” Clark said.
As Wolinsky works to further correct these facilities’ erroneous business practices, Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living employees will continue to monitor their progress, Clark said.
While the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living initially urged the Attorney General to seek a temporary receiver and is responsible for oversight of these facilities, Clark said the agency has no say in the receivership’s management. Wolinsky is accountable to the judge of the Washington County Superior Court, not the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living, he said.
More financial trouble revealed
Behind the scenes, White’s failure to make timely mortgage payments raised the possibility of foreclosure, which could force residents from their homes, upending their lives even more than a changed dining service.
Because White defaulted on his mortgage loans, the time frame in which he has to pay has been accelerated, according to Teachout’s findings.
If these loans were to go into foreclosure, which the court considers an imminent threat if immediate negotiations are not undertaken, residents would have to face the possibility of vacating their homes and finding somewhere else to live.
“Residents would rightfully understand that they are living on shaky ground,” Teachout wrote.
While Allenwood can again accept new residents, surveyors will continue to monitor its progress and Wolinsky will continue to act as receiver until the courts decide whether to return management to the previous owners or install a receiver for a longer period of time, Clark said.
Surveyors take a “broad” approach in assessing any changes in these facilities’ operations, Clark said, returning to a location multiple times to interview residents and their families, look at records, and handle other administrative matters, Clark said.
A helping hand in the business
Wolinsky’s firm has solicited help from Cathedral Square, an organization that operates over 30 senior housing facilities across Vermont, including in South Burlington.
According to Deborah Bouton, Director of Marketing and Outreach at Cathedral Square, officials at the organization were quick to offer to help with the receivership’s duties. Though Kim Fitzgerald, Cathedral Square’s Chief Executive Officer, reached out to officials at Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living shortly after learning about the issues at the senior living facilities, it was Wolinsky’s law firm that eventually contacted Cathedral Square to help with running these locations, said Bouton.
“We’re right here [in South Burlington], we know the landscape, we know the business, we know the support services needed, and we also have a reputation for… the residents come first,” Bouton said.
Since then, two of the organization’s top executives have been heavily involved with Wolinsky’s operations, handling administrative tasks, processing payroll, and speaking with residents and staff, among other roles, Bouton said.
“Even though it’s stretched this place really thin, people are really proud that… we were asked and that we’re stepping in and doing this to help them out,” Bouton said.
Fitzgerald and Director of Operations Laura Wilson have been closely involved at the Pillsbury locations, Bouton said.
Wilson has spent much of her time stationed at the Pillsbury facilities in question, where she discusses various issues with staff and human resources professionals while helping to sort out records and other administrative tasks, Bouton said. Fitzgerald, meanwhile is “always on the go,” and also does a lot of administrative work, she added.
Cathedral Square signed a contract that ensures their help at the Pillsbury Manor locations, though Bouton was unsure the amount of compensation Cathedral Square is receiving or for how long they have pledged their services.
South Burlington City Manager Kevin Dorn had given at speech at Allenwood two weeks before the facility was taken under control by the state, and he was surprised upon reading the news as he hadn’t seen signs of poor management or heard complaints from residents during his visit, he said.
City officials had not received any complaints from residents or families of residents at these facilities, but where nonetheless distressed by the reports of malpractice.
“The reaction was one of deep concern… these are vulnerable citizens,” Dorn said.