Montco fires doctor at Parkhouse for alleged ethics violations

View of the west building at Parkhouse Providence Pointe Sept. 5, 2013. File Photo by Gene Walsh/21st Century Media

NORRISTOWN — A part-time doctor at the county-owned Parkhouse complex has been fired for violating Montgomery County ethics rules by allegedly passing insider information to the firm under contract to purchase the geriatric facility.

Dr. Elliot Menkowitz, who is also the president of Ganas Development, was fired after the investigation uncovered that he had given information regarding the sale of Parkhouse to Mid-Atlantic Health Care LLC, which gave that company a competitive edge over the other bidders for the property, according to an audit report issued by the Montgomery County controller.

Additionally, Menkowitz, of Lower Pottsgrove, did not make it clear to Mid-Atlantic Health Care that he was a county employee, according to the report.

“There is no dispute he failed to provide any formal notice of his potential conflict with the commissioners, the chief operating officer and the county solicitor,” the report states. “Moreover, it is difficult to believe his introduction was made with much clarity when Dr. Menkowitz’s own business partners at (Mid-Atlantic Health Care) were unaware he was a county employee until five months later.”

Menkowitz could not be reached for comment, but his attorney, Jeffrey M. Lindy, released a statement on the 71-year-old doctor’s behalf.

“At the interview meeting in August 2013 that I attended with officials of (Mid-Atlantic Health Care), I introduced myself to the working group comprised of county officials and the county COO and the county CFO as well as senior staff from the Parkhouse facility. During the course of this transaction, I have fully disclosed who I was and what my affiliation with Parkhouse was. If I was not supposed to participate in this transaction, then someone on the Working Group should have told me. I did not do anything wrong in connection with the Parkhouse transaction at all and I never hid or attempted to hide my involvement,” the statement reads.

In a cover letter preceding the investigation’s findings, Montgomery County Controller Stewart Greenleaf Jr. writes that nothing found in the investigation would legally stop the sale of Parkhouse from occurring.

“Our review did not discover any statutory or policy violations that would present a legal bar to the sale of Parkhouse to Mid-Atlantic Health Care if you choose to proceed,” his letter reads.

According to the controller’s report, an investigation began after Menkowitz visited the retirement department of the controller’s office in anticipation of the termination of his county employment with the expected sale of Parkhouse. According to the report, he made claims stating he was not only a Parkhouse employee but was also affiliated with Mid-Atlantic Health Care. The report states he also suggested he had special influence over the sale process.

On Feb. 21, 2013, the Montgomery County commissioners issued a request for information concerning Parkhouse in Upper Providence and received 15 responses. According to the audit report, only Mid-Atlantic’s response included a purchase price for the facility. Mid-Atlantic is offering to purchase Parkhouse and its 288-acre campus for $35 million.

The report states that on June 20, 2013, Menkowitz called Parkhouse administrator Melanie McGarry and advised her that he wanted to invest in the sale of Parkhouse. According to the report, Menkowitz asked McGarry which potential buyers she favored, to which she allegedly replied that she would choose Mid-Atlantic Health Care.

Menkowitz admitted that he told representatives of Mid-Atlantic that the Parkhouse Administrator was impressed by their proposal at a July 3 meeting with Dr. Scott Rifkin and other representatives of Mid-Atlantic. At this meeting, according to the report, Menkowitz also told Mid-Atlantic about employees’ concerns of being laid off when a new owner took the facility over.

The report also states that Menkowitz advised Mid-Atlantic he was a doctor who treated patients at Parkhouse and that Mid-Atlantic representatives did not know he was a county employee until after they were awarded the contract.

Following that meeting, Mid-Atlantic entered into an agreement with Menkowitz and his development company, Ganas Development LLC. According to the report, through that agreement “Ganas obtained exclusive development rights for excess vacant land surrounding Parkhouse for a period of one year with any development plans being subject to MAHC’s approval.”

A working group of nine people met to discuss the responses the county received from the RFP, two of whom worked in the Parkhouse facility. The group eventually narrowed the respondents to Mid-Atlantic Health Care and Madison Health Care. According to the report, the members of the group who worked at Parkhouse did not realize the ethical implications of Menkowitz being a county employee and did not think to bring it up, as many of the doctors who work at Parkhouse do so via a contract and are not on the county’s payroll. The other members of the group did not know he was a county employee.

Both companies were given the opportunity to present to the group and were given a series of questions expressing concerns the group had. The report states that during this time many Parkhouse employees were concerned about the future of their jobs with a new company potentially coming in to take over. A week before Mid-Atlantic’s interview with the working group, Menkowitz spoke with an employee regarding employment, and asked the employee to send him an email stating the employees concerns.

Menkowitz’s business partner, Joshua Rosenbloom, forwarded the email to Mid-Atlantic business director Michael Mahon.

“Elliot asked me to forward this email to you. It comes from a particularly well-liked and valuable staff member at Parkhouse and it raises questions that you ought to consider ahead of your interview on Friday. It’s similar to, but not exactly the same as, one of the questions in the questionnaire the county sent you on Friday, and in some ways it points to deeper questions to be considered than those outlined by the county,” the email reads.

Rosenbloom would later send an email to Mahon telling him about a senior staff meeting that Menkowitz was attending on Aug. 20, 2013. He asked Mahon if he wanted Menkowitz to inform Mid-Atlantic of staff concerns brought up at the meeting.

Greenleaf said on Wednesday that Mid-Atlantic maintains they did not use any of the information given to them by Menkowitz for their presentation and interview with the working group. Greenleaf also said the members of the working group said they do not remember, and minutes for the meeting were not taken.

Montgomery County Solicitor Raymond McGarry, no relation to Melanie, put out a statement on Wednesday saying Menkowitz had been fired. The county has since published all of the responses to the RFP on the county website.

“Like me, the controller found that the employee at the heart of the investigation violated the county’s ethics policy,” McGarry wrote.

The sale was initially set to go through on Jan. 31, but the county and Mid-Atlantic found some environmental and building issues in a due diligence process. A final sale date has not been scheduled.