Zupnik, Herman Split $1M State Fine
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
FLY CREEK – The president and another top executive of Focus Otsego were fined $1,000 each and sentenced to 250 hours of community service each at 12:55 p.m. today in Otsego Town Court here.
Joseph Zupnik, the president, and financial officer Daniel Herman appeared before Town Justice Gary Kuch in a hearing that lasted about an hour.
Attorney Kathleen Boland from the state Attorney General’s Office said the two men will also split a $1 million fine imposed by her office.
The men’s attorneys had asked for 40 hours of community service; also, that the service occur near their clients’ homes. Zupnik lives in Rockland County; Herman in New Jersey.
However, Kuch levied six times that amount, and recommended the service be done in Otsego County, although probably not at Centers Healthcare, as the former Focus is known under its latest ownership.
The lawyers argued that the four Focus employees who falsified records regarding treatment of M.P., the woman left in a chair for 41 hours over Memorial Day Weekend 2016, made it impossible for the executives to know the truth of what was happening in Cooperstown.
However, Kuch, drawing on his 17 years as Cooperstown High School principal and Worcester Central School superintendent, reminded them that in top supervisory positions, “The buck stops here.”
While the men had sought community service in organizations they were familiar with near their homes, the judge observed, “doing community service at something you love doing – it doesn’t make any sense to me.”
As to the 40 hours, he said he would send someone guilty of a standard DWI to that kind of service at the landfill. He noted, however, that the individual in the county responsible for allocating community service, Amin Aswad, would be able to assign the men to whatever service he sees fit.
In his remarks before sentencing, Zupnik – as his lawyer had also mentioned – said, “I risked my life on Sept. 11, and for a year afterwards,” adding, “I’ve dedicated my life to helping others, a passion of mine since I was 14 years old.”
As to the charge brought against him, “It weighs on me every day and night.”
Herman said, “We’re sorry this happened on our watch.”
For her part, prosecutor Boland noted that Focus Otsego, under county ownership as Otsego Manor, had a “caring, nurturing” reputation. The new owners “changed it from a neighborhood to a warehouse.”
But Herman’s attorney, Jerry Solomon, said that, under county management, Otsego Manor was “a one-star-out-of-five facility.”
He also noted that The Manor, according to County Treasurer Dan Crowell, had lost $4.2 million under county management its last year, and the Focus executives, who paid $18 million for the facility, had to make cuts to keep the operation running.