From: David Lacher
Date: April 10, 2014 at 19:06:22 EDT
To: Chrisanne Petrone, 'David Lacher', Deirdre Polow, Jeffrey Hastie, Lianne Merchant, Naomi Brickel, Pamela Davis, Rachel Relkin, 'Valerie Orellana'
Subject: PERSONAL MATTER
To My Colleagues –
A personal situation has arisen which I need to share with you today, because this surely will become public and the only question is when those who have the information will choose to use it to their best advantage.
You may recall that about two months ago, I believe during one of our community budget forums, Mr. Cox took the podium and recounted a conversation that he claimed to have had with me at last year's SEPTA dinner. He spoke first about some understanding that he claimed to have had with me about releasing him from a pledge not to discuss something in last year's Board election, but then he turned to a completely different subject and claimed that I told him on that occasion that I get my health insurance from the school district and it is a really good deal. If you were at that meeting, then you will recall that I was quite taken aback -- first of all because I had absolutely no recollection of having had any conversation with him at last year's SEPTA dinner and I could not imagine that I would have had such a conversation; and second, there would have been no reason ever for me to discuss the circumstances of my family’s health insurance arrangements. Mr. Cox stated that night that I told him it was a really good deal for me -- another highly improbable assertion since the monthly premium at that time was just under $1700 per month and by now is slightly over that figure.
As he bent his head forward and stared at me, waiting for a response, I did acknowledge that I do get my health insurance from the school district; that it is perfectly legal to do so under New York law; that I am neither the first nor the last Board member ever to have done that; and the main point – that under New York law, board members who avail themselves of that opportunity are required to pay 100% of the cost of the premiums.
That was the end of it for that evening. But shortly thereafter, Adam Egelberg filed the first of several FOIL requests, seeking the names of every person who gets their health insurance through the school district. A list was generated and delivered to Mr. Egelberg and my name was not on it. Evidently, the person who compiled the list put in the inquiry only for school district employees. It is my understanding that in a subsequent private conversation between Mr. Egelberg and Dr. Korostoff, Mr. Egelberg pressed for why my name that did not appear on the list, and Dr. Korostoff offered to have the list recompiled. The list was recompiled and the second time around, my name did appear on the list.
Mr. Egelberg then followed with a third FOIL request, seeking complete billing and payment records only for David Lacher’s health insurance account and for no other person covering the past 24 months. Despite early questions whether such a request might violate either or both of the privacy rules of the federal HIPAA statute and/or the “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” exemption written into the New York FOIL statute, both Jeff Kehl and Dr. Korostoff pressed forward and directed Liz Saraiva, as the district's public records officer, to procure the records and to produce them to Mr. Egelberg. Liz was permitted to redact certain information, such as my home address on the invoices, as well as which plan I have selected and whether my coverage is individual or family. However, the monthly premium does give a reasonably diligent investigator enough information to determine all the things that were redacted.
The reason I am sharing this with you this evening is because the records were released to Mr. Egelberg late this afternoon. And what the records show is that I had fallen behind in my monthly premium payments to the District, to the point where the District actually threatened to go back six months and terminate my coverage and seek to recover any benefits that were paid under the plan. So, from the District’s standpoint, no one ignored the fact that I was in arrears. Each invoice showed the previous balance carried forward, and as the arrears mounted, there even were handwritten notes asking that I please bring my account current.
You should know that as of today, my account is fully paid and current. The only open item is the invoice for this current month of April, 2014. What this investigation has disclosed is that your board president has been under significant financial distress for most of the last year. Although I am fairly certain that none of you would ask, I will tell you that the distress arises from the decline in my law practice as a continuing effect of the bad economy, from the fact that my wife has been unemployed for most of the last four years, from the fact that I have had one daughter in a private university for all of the last four years, and also from the fact that I have devoted an inordinate amount of prime work time to school district business – much of which you never hear about -- to the detriment of my own business. I assure you all – I am not in trouble with the law; I do not have a gambling problem; I do not have an alcohol problem; I am not into any loan sharks; and I am not paying child support for any illegitimate children. I have experienced significant personal financial distress as have millions of other Americans, and I have fallen behind on a number of my financial obligations as have millions of other Americans, of which my health insurance premiums to the school district are but one but not the only one.
It is inconceivable to me that the people who now have this information will not use it to embarrass or humiliate me and my family at some point in the future. And so I am determined that my colleagues should hear it from me first before you read it in the blog. This is not ace crackerjack investigation or reporting. There are no Pulitzers here for investigative journalism. Clearly someone on the inside alerted someone on the outside that there is a story here, and the rest was made possible by the District’s response to the three escalating FOIL requests. It is rather a sad tale, regrettable for me and my family, and hugely embarrassing personally within my community. But it is what it is. I wanted you to have this information now, today, from me directly, because I do not know if it will be on the blog by the time we get home from dinner tonight, or tomorrow morning, or perhaps it will be saved for a more opportune time. But knowing who has the information, I cannot imagine that it will not come out.
So to the extent that any of the rest of you are affected by your association with me, and by my status as Board President, I apologize to each of you. I have no intention of being run out of town or of stepping down. It is not a crime to be in financial distress and to fall behind in one's financial obligations. I can assure you that not one dollar of premium obligations ever has been forgiven by the District, and as I mentioned previously, all arrears now have been paid in full. But the history of the last year is what it is.
That is all. I have no legal way to compel any of you to keep this private. I just would hope that you all would have the common decency to do so. I have not yet determined what, if any, state[ment] I might make when the news comes out publicly. I will deal with it when the time comes.
Now I must get to our dinner. I have had a conversation with Bill Librera about the subject of our e-mail exchanges last night and today. All of that occurs during prime business time.