An independent audit examining the sale of Friendship Ridge to Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services has confirmed prior findings by Beaver County Controller David Rossi that the county is still owed in excess of $1.3 million from the transaction.
James Fellin, a certified public accountant and fraud examiner, has provided the county with results of his analysis of the sale; Commissioners are scheduled to meet with Fellin on Wednesday along with Controller David Rossi to discuss his findings. Commissioners contracted with Fellin’s company, The Nottingham Group, back in April after an audit by the Controller’s Office first revealed alleged shortfalls of approximately $1.4 million in the amounts owed by Comprehensive to the county from the sale of Friendship Ridge.
In his executive summary, James Fellin found that Comprehensive owes Beaver County an additional $1,363,996 in order to comply with sales agreements for the facility.
Commissioners have not released the results of the audit and sources within county government tell the Beaver Countian there are tentative plans to seek private settlement negotiations with Comprehensive.
Among the details in the report include a reference to payments made by Treasurer Connie Javens (not citing her by name) to Friendship Ridge — “apparently without proper authorization or authority within the County,” and a $300,000 wire transfer to Comprehensive at the direction of former Financial Administrator Vince LaValle — which auditors determined was an unearned bonus payment which “never should have been made.”
“Based on our investigation in this matter, it is our opinion that relative to the sale of the Friendship Ridge Nursing facility, the financial documents presented at closing were not a complete and accurate representation of all revenues and expenses of the facility,” concluded Fellin. “In addition, subsequent to the closing of the purchase, there were actions taken by various Beaver County and Friendship Ridge personnel which were contrary to the terms of the Agreements.”
The auditors’ findings are consistent with the Beaver Countian’s investigative reporting over the past year about the sale of Friendship Ridge.
Auditors reported they did not “uncover any direct evidence of impropriety or a specific intent of one of the parties to misappropriate assets or misrepresent or mislead the parties to the transaction,” but went on to note, “our investigation did not include a full forensic accounting investigation of all aspects of the transaction and therefore this cannot be ruled out as a possibility.”
A footnote in the report for that citation explained further, “We have become aware of certain allegations of improprieties perpetrated by individuals associated with the sale of Friendship Ridge. These allegations, however, were not within the scope of our investigation in this matter and we did not observe any evidence that these would impact our work to determine the amount due to or from the parties to the transaction.”
Beaver County Treasurer Connie Javens has been under criminal investigation by the District Attorney’s Office since December of last year. Vince LaValle abruptly resigned in January after told he was being fired by the new Republican majority Board of Commissioners, although sources tell the Beaver Countian that Democratic Commissioner Tony Amadio continues to meet privately with LaValle to discuss county finances.
Treasurer Javens currently has a defamation lawsuit pending against several commenters on the Beaver Countian who criticized her unilateral bank withdrawals for Friendship Ridge and contracts her family members got with the new owners of the facility. The Beaver Countian has refused to comply with a subpoena issued by Javens, who is seeking information which would enable her to discover the true identities of the anonymous commenters.