Cuomo’s ethically challenged DOH official

Is the NYS Department of Health opposed to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s call for ethical reform in state government  or is the DOH simply an example of the governor’s true colors? A close look at those the DOH selects to manage the state’s traumatic brain injury Medicaid waiver may lead some to conclude Cuomo’s commitment to ethics reform is more posture than actual commitment.

According to news reports, the DOH’s Maribeth J. Gnozzio took control of a highly problematic fund established by her husband, Robert C. Janiszewski, a former County Executive of Hudson County, New Jersey, who pled guilty in 2002 to taking more than $100,000 in bribes,  right before he resigned from office on September 7, 2001. At one time, Janiszewski  was considered one of NJ’s top three Democrats.

While the fund was called the The Hudson County Community Fund with a stated purpose of raising money for community projects, all indications are it was inappropriately used to raise campaign funds for Janiszewski.  In March 2001, Janiszewski  agreed to work with Federal authorities in an anti-corruption sting after being confronted with a video of himself accepting a bribe from Union City psychiatrist Oscar Sandoval.   Records show that as soon as he began helping the feds he began “directing campaign funds (in excess of $200,000) to a private campaign account” that would soon be put in Gnozzio’s name and use a Newark P.O. Box as its address.

In a 2003 interview, the late Paul Byrne, a childhood friend of Janiszewski’s who was indicted for collecting thousands of dollars in bribes for Janiszewski, said Janiszewski gave him up to spare Gnozzio from prosecution.  Byrne’s attorney at the time, John Coyle, is quoted as saying, “”It is another attempt by the government’s witness, Robert Janiszewski, to shift blame for his greed and corrupt political leadership in an attempt to further his own interests and to protect his wife from prosecution.” Understandable from Janiszewski’s point of view given that Gnozzio held the bible for him when he was sworn in as county executive in 1988.

One question, from the vantage point of a brain injury survivor living in NY who is on disability and the TBI Waiver, is what on earth are the DOH’s vetting practices and do have they have any vetting practices at all?

Is no one troubled by the fact Gnozzio has already established herself as non-responsive to the advocacy community, not entirely respectful of the Regional Resource Development Centers around the state, as well as being the one who issued the verbal directive to RRDCs statewide that TBI Waiver case managers cannot support their clients at Medicaid Fair Hearings? Moreover, how is Gnozzio, with her ethically challenged background, even qualified be in the world of brain injury in the first place? How and why is she allowed so much power?

If she was vetted, and all the aforementioned facts were known, then those who vetted her and hired her should be fired. If she was not vetted and the aforementioned facts were not know, then those who dropped the ball should be fired. Perhaps a clean slate, including replacing Deputy DOH Commissioner Mark Kissinger, would be the ethical place to start

Brain injury survivors deserve better, health care providers deserve better, the RRDCs deserve better, and New Yorkers as a whole deserve better.




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