Monsey – Election probe in adult home

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Questions continue to mount as state and county officials investigate claims that the administrator of an adult home threatened its residents to get them to vote for four Democrats.The state Department of Health visited the New Monsey Park Home for Adults on Wednesday,? department spokesman Jeffrey Hammond said Friday. “We are investigating the conditions and services at the New Monsey Park home, including the potential misuse of residents’ funds,” he said.

Board of Elections officials said Monday that election inspectors who were sent Aug. 25 to collect absentee ballots at the home were told by some of the residents that home administrator Yitzy Ullman had given them a list of candidates and told them to vote for those candidates or their television privileges would be suspended.

The inspectors were told money was also involved in the threats, officials said.

“Our priority remains protecting the well-being, safety and rights of the residents,” Hammond said.

Mark Kurzmann, Ullman’s recently retained lawyer, said he and his client were looking for an independent investigation to reveal the sources of the accusations.

“From what I can determine the charges are entirely baseless,” Kurzmann said.

Alfred Brandon, a 10-year resident of New Monsey Park, said the slips of paper with the candidates’ names went to only some of the residents, not all, as Ullman had said last week.

“I was not approached,” he said. “The administrator knows I’m one of the more higher functioning people here.”

On the list were Assembly candidate David Fried, county Legislature candidate Alden Wolfe and County Court judicial candidates Charles Apotheker and Tom Walsh.

All four have said they knew nothing about the list at New Monsey Park.

Kurzmann said no selection process was used in handing out the lists. Whoever was around, he said, got one.

Brandon said he hadn’t heard anything about threats involving television or money, but said he believes Ullman targeted the less capable residents.

Ullman has said that the facility distributed the list of candidates’ names as a recommendation, and he denied any coercion.

“They’re coming up and saying, ‘Who should we vote for?’ ” he said last week.

He added that the candidates on the list had proved to be advocates for health rights and the mentally ill, among other interests of the home’s residents.

Michael Cohen, another New Monsey Park resident, said his roommate received one of the lists from either Ullman or another employee.

“He wasn’t told, ‘Vote for these guys,’ but he said, ‘These are the guys I would vote for,’ ” Cohen said.

His roommate could not be reached for comment.

Election officials have said that anyone can request that people vote a certain way, but cannot threaten or coerce a voter.

Republican Board of Elections Commissioner Joan Silvestri said Friday that the reports from New Monsey Park Home for Adults are the first of their kind that she knows of in Rockland County.

The matter, she said, is under investigation by the county District Attorney’s Office.

Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner Ann Marie Kelly said that in addition to the inspectors’ reports, she is also suspicious of the volume of Democratic registrations that came in from the home on the last day to register for the primary.

Of the 97 registered Democrats at New Monsey Park, 47 of them were registered just recently.

“That’s a lot of movement in one building for the cutoff,” she said.

Kelly said she also has concerns about the home’s residents who come to the polls to vote.

By law, voters are allowed to have nearly anyone they choose go into the voting booth with them, be it election inspectors or a family friend.

And since many voters from the home may need assistance in the voting booth, Kelly said, “my worry is who accompanies them there.”

“When that curtain is closed, we have no idea what will happen,” she said.

Silvestri said election inspectors have been trained to speak directly to the voter, not the assistant, and to log in anyone who accompanies a voter into the booth.

She said the inspectors are good at making sure voters are not unduly influenced.

Officials at other Rockland adult homes say they have never had reason to think that their voting residents were being coerced.

“We certainly don’t have anything to do with how our residents vote, one way or another,” Leah Schwibner, director of marketing at Tappan Zee Manor, said Thursday.

The Nyack adult home is open for candidates to visit with residents, she said, and all have been good about calling ahead to make appointments.

TJN