Wednesday, December 12, 2007

City of Port Townsend Writes to Ms. Bebo

I'm so sorry about the delay in getting this letter up on the blog. We have had technical difficulties plus holidays plus vacation. Anyway, here it is and I think you will find that it is worth waiting for. Please send the mayor and council members notes with your appreciation. There is a link to them below to the right.

December 11,2007
Laurie Bebo President and CEO Assisted Living Concepts, Inc. W140N8981 Lilly Road Menomonee Falls, Wl 53051
Re: Victoria House, Port Townsend, WA
Dear Ms Bebo:
As Mayor and on behalf of the City Council of the City of Port Townsend, ! am writing to express the City of Port Townsend's deep concern about the way Assisted Living Concepts, Inc. ("ALC") has made eleven residents of Victoria House innocent victims of an apparent dispute that ALC is having with the State of Washington concerning Medicaid reimbursement rates. The treatment of these individuals is contrary to our community's values as a place that cares for its people, and inconsistent with basic principles of caring and kindness.
Each of these individuals entered Victoria House with an implied understanding that they would be able to stay unless discharge or transfer was caused by the need for a higher level of care than the facility agreed to provide. Indeed, in some instances this understanding was expressly stated. Yet we have been told that none of these eleven individuals impacted by ALC's decision have experienced changed conditions requiring transfer, despite assertions by ALC personnel or representatives to the contrary.
ALC says these residents need more care and blames the State for not responding to ALC's request that they be transferred. Yet it appears that ALC never chose to seek discharge of any of these residents under the criteria authorized under Washington State law. Note that one such criterion is that "the transfer is necessary for the resident's welfare and the resident's needs cannot be met at the facility." (Letter from Robin Dale, Counsel to ALC, dated December 2, 2007 and appended hereto) Had ALC initiated a transfer or discharge as authorized by law, the resident would have had the opportunity to dispute the alleged reason for your action and have the matter adjudicated by a Superior Court judge.
Why, we wonder, did ALC choose not to take such action? Why, instead, did ALC opt to terminate its Medicaid contract with the State for Victoria House and one other facility of the 21 that ALC operates in Washington? It would appear that this choice is an "end run" on ALC's part enabling you to avoid demonstrating that the situations of the residents meet the requirements of the law. How can we conclude otherwise? The Legislature crafted a detailed and logical framework for determining whether residents of a facility like Victoria House should be discharged or transferred, yet ALC apparently didn't want to avail itself of those provisions.
We also note that you chose to terminate your Medicaid contract at only two of the 21 facilities you operate in Washington. Are those two radically different from the other nineteen? It seems likely that the kinds of clients your facilities attract will be reasonably comparable in communities throughout the state, so we are mystified as to why you felt that keeping a Medicaid relationship was so onerous in two instances but acceptable in nineteen others. Perhaps you would like to explain this as well.
We understand that several of the involved Victoria House residents have exercised their rights to complain to the State in the past about conditions and that such complaints may have brought about actions by the State seeking improvements to the way Victoria House has been operated. Some have suggested that your recent termination of the Medicaid contract has more to do with this than your concerns about rates. We hope this is not the case, for retaliation against someone exercising her or his rights under the law is totally inappropriate.
Your representatives assert that Washington's reimbursement rates under Medicaid need to be reviewed and increased. We have no opinion on that matter, but we do recognize that this is a legitimate concern and that regular review of such a matter is warranted. But elderly, indigent persons should not be pawns to be sacrificed during such review.
To that end, and triggered by ALC's behavior in this instance, we urge the State take prompt action that allows the remaining ten affected clients to stay at Victoria House or to return there, should they so desire. We further recommend reforms to the Medicaid program as follows:
• Requiring that any facility entering the Medicaid program must continue to serve any individual accepted for residency, absent changed circumstances warranting transfer or discharge, even if the facility opts not to accept new Medicaid clients;
• Requiring a determination by an independent decision-maker in any instance where a Medicaid client asserts that he or she is being discharged or transferred improperly;
• Requiring that the owners of multiple facilities in the State have consistent policies such that if they accept Medicaid clients at any of them, they must accept them at all of them;
• Strengthening rules pertaining to retaliatory actions against Medicaid recipients who exercise their rights and subsequently suffer adverse action.
ALC's actions have caused extensive anxiety, confusion and trauma to the lives of these eleven individuals, their families and their friends. One of them is deaf and blind; getting accustomed to a new facility will be exceptionally difficult for her. Another lost 20 pounds after ALC's decision was announced in early November. A third recently passed away. While it cannot be proved that her death resulted from the eviction, it's certainly plausible that there was a connection; studies have long documented that there are significant adverse psychological and physical effects from involuntary relocation, particularly among the elderly.
We urge you to rescind your announced intentions and, instead, to allow the remaining ten affected clients to stay at Victoria House or to return there, should they so desire. At that point you can pursue issues with the State without victimizing innocent seniors. Changed circumstances in the future may give rise to a judgment on your part that transfer or discharge is warranted; should that occur you have adequate remedies under existing law and those remedies ensure that residents are treated fairly and with adequate due process.
This letter is written on behalf of the City Council of the City of Port Townsend, which unanimously approved this letter in open session on December 10, 2007. Thank you and all whom we have copied for your consideration.
Mark Welch, on behalf of the City Council of the City of Port Townsend Mayor

Copies of this letter were sent to the Governor, State Representatives for our area and DSHS administrators.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

One of Vic House Eleven Dies

It's sad to report that one of the eleven residents of Victoria House who would have had to move died last Saturday night. She was terminally ill and receiving hospice care. There is no indication that her death had anythng to do with the situation at Victoria House.

Is the Glass Half Empty?

The Leader must think the glass is half empty to read the headlines on their article about the City Council Meeting last Monday night.

Others might not see it that way. The Council IS taking action in sending a letter to the involved parties and sending possible ordinances to committee for consideration. Whether their action will stop evictions DOES remain to be seen. Some think that anything they might do at this point would be too late for the residents hoping to stay at Victoria House. That, too, is unsure at this time. Although residents have been advised that the facility would no longer accept Medicaid as payment effective 2/1/08, the residents have NOT received Notices of Discharge.

The article in The Leader had some misleading information (taken from the ALC attorney's letter) regarding the time required for notice. It's not clear how the attorney came up with the three day notice as cited but there is a provision for a resident to be discharged "as soon as practicable" when the health and safety of residents is endangered or when an immediate transfer or discharge is required by a resident's urgent medical needs. A facility MUST give 60 days notice when canceling the Medicaid contract.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Good response at City Council Meeting

The City Council Meeting last night left the supporters of the Vic House Eleven feeling that we had a good hearing and the Council would like to do what they can to assist in our situation. All members of the council expressed concern about the situation of our residents who have been treated so shabbily. They are unsure what action is within their power to take. They agreed to send a letter to ALC, State Representatives and DSHS strongly stating their concerns about what is happening.

City Attorney John Watts provided the Council with two draft ordinances for their consideration. One concerned landlord tenant just cause and the other concerned business licensing regulation that prohibits terminations or evictions except for cause. The council decided to refer the ordinances to the CDLU (Community Development Land Use) Committee before making a decision.

It is interesting that ALC had a letter sent to the mayor from a Olympia legal firm stating their position and cautioning against a just cause provision in the eviction ordinance. We were told that an attorney from the firm had planned to be at the meeting but was unable to come due to weather issues.

John Estes, Sue Estes, Doug Campbell, Nick Harper, Leatha Smith and Kelly Dodson spoke on behalf of the Victoria House residents. Don Rose, Maintenance Man at Victoria House, spoke but stated that he was not a spokesman for ALC; however, his comments pretty much followed the "company line".

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Eviction Issue on City Council Agenda for Dec. 3rd

It appears important to show up at the next City Council meeting, November 3rd.

We just received a note from City Attorney John Watts, as follows:
Mayor Welch requested review of possible City options concerning the notices of termination and planned evictions at Victoria House.
Attached is the agenda bill for the City Council meeting Dec. 3rd. As stated in the agenda bill, draft ordinances that might address the issue are still being prepared.

Thank you and please call with any questions.

John Watts, City Attorney - City of Port Townsend
250 Madison Street, Suite 2, Port Townsend, WA 98368

Telephone: 360/379-5048, Fax: 360/385-4290

The attached agenda bill says:
Based on public comments and concerns raised at a recent Council meeting concerning notices of termination and planned evictions at Victoria House, Mayor Welch requested review of possible City options. The City currently has no regulation affecting the situation. Possible City options are set forth. (In addition to anything the City might do, there may be private legal options, for example, based on express or implied contract or representations that a resident would not be evicted except for certain causes, and/or based on equal protection or discrimination.)

Send letter to operator, and to state agencies and legislators. Send (1) a letter to operator of Victoria House objecting to removal of tenants who rely on Medicaid to assist in covering their costs, and (2) separately, a letter to state agencies and legislators to prohibit/regulate the situation. While RCW 70.129.110 provides regulations on discharge and transfer requirements from boarding homes (apparently, Victoria House is a boarding home), it is not clear the regulation prohibits the evictions occurring at Victoria House, particularly if the eviction is based on an inability of the facility to meet the needs of the resident. (A copy of the RCW is attached.)

Enact just cause eviction ordinance. For background, attached is a copy of MRSC staff attorney Paul Sullivan’s comments on such an ordinance, to effect, state landlord tenant law may preempt and prevent any city action. No other city (except Seattle) has a “just cause” eviction ordinance. Further, an ordinance enacted now might not apply to a pending notice of termination of tenancy issued to a Victoria House tenant (but might apply to an eviction, namely, the actual court process required to evict a tenant who does not move in response to a notice to terminate if a tenant). Any ordinance would apply citywide (and not just to Victoria House). For Council consideration, a draft ordinance modeled on the Seattle ordinance will be provided to Council before the Council meeting. (It is suggested any ordinance, if approved, only apply to any apartment or building with 5 or more tenancies, and not to every rental arrangement.)

Enact a business licensing regulation that prohibits terminations or evictions except for cause. For Council consideration, a draft ordinance will be provided to Council before the Council meeting. It is suggested the ordinance, if adopted, would apply to any apartment or building operator with 5 more tenancies, and provide that any violation of an ordinance provision concerning termination or eviction could result in an apartment operator’s business license suspension and/or penalty. For example, if a licensee wrongfully terminated or evicted a tenant (namely, terminated or evicted without just cause), then the City could suspend the licensee’s business license and/or fine the licensee. (Any suspension or fine would require appeal rights, and involve the City in appeal hearings on whether a violation triggering licensee suspension or fine occurred, namely, whether just cause existed to terminate/evict a tenant.) Such an ordinance might be deemed equivalent to a landlord tenant regulation, and therefore might (per MRSC above) be preempted by state law. Review of other Washington cities’ codes failed to find any similar provision.

Good news from the State Ombudsman

I got an email from Louise Ryan, State LTC Ombudsman, today and I want to share her message with you.

It reads: "...the media attention has got legislators attention and there is interest in a legislative fix. I'll keep you posted once I have more news. Keep up the good work and encourage resident's & family to keep making noise."

Let's keep up the pressure!

Kevin Van De Wege Town Hall Meeting

There will be a Town Hall Meeting with Kevin Van De Wege on Friday night (yes, tomorrow night) at 8:00 pm at the Tri City Center in Chimacum. A couple of the family members of the Vic House Eleven plan to be there to take up the issue of the eviction. They would like others to be there to show their support.

This is a good chance to ask one of our Legislators to take action on behalf of residents like ours who need them to protect our vunerable elders from being at the mercy of corporate decisions.

Bebo responds to Sue's editorial

Wednesday's newspaper The Leader printed Sue's letter previously posted on this blog. They edited out the sentence at the end of the third paragraph about retaliation. They also added a response from Laurie Bebo which follows:

(Laurie Bebo, president and CEO of Assisted Living Concepts Inc., responds: Although we cannot get into details about individual residents, we have documented monthly care conferences in which we have asked the state to find skilled nursing placement for several residents. The state has offered (through the case manager in attendance) to provide us with higher reimbursement, and our response has been that's not what we're asking for. The resident needs to move to a skilled nursing facility to have the additional oversight, care and medical assessments necessary to meet their needs in a quality way. This, of course, is more costly for the state than any reimbursement they are offering us. To end our Medicaid contract is anything but financially lucrative for Victoria House. We have simply put the care and safety of our residents and staff above the negative financial implications of ending the Medicaid contract. Although we are not interested in growing our Medicaid population, our plan was to reduce our Medicaid population through natural attrition. As people pass away, need to move to a higher level of care or simply move to a different community, we would slowly exit the Medicaid program. The state's unwillingness to see the appropriate placement needs of the residents has created this unfortunate situation.There is a process for discharging residents in the regulations, but the state has to agree. The state has not agreed to move out any one of our Medicaid residents all year. The proof in whether these residents are appropriate for assisted living is in the fact that several were denied for assisted living placement and will have to go to a skilled nursing facility when they leave Victoria House. Some residents will appropriately be placed in assisted living - these are the same residents we offered to take at one of our other houses if they didn't find placement nearby. The other residents that will have to move to a skilled nursing facility (SNF) need to recognize it is in their best interest to do so, as their needs are such that the SNF care environment will best accommodate them. Most residents have already been accepted in a nearby assisted living or skilled nursing facility of their choice. We are confident the last couple of residents can be placed in a skilled nursing facility as well. I agree with Ms. Estes that the Medicaid reimbursement rates are too low for assisted living. I look forward to further work being done in this area as well as in the area of appropriate placement.)

It becomes rather disheartening to deal with folks who always have an answer and it doesn't seem to matter if it is factual or accurate.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Editorial from The Daily Olympian

The following is an editorial from The Daily Olympian newspaper in Olympia. It also appeared in the Peninsula Daily News as a guest editorial with this introduction:
Assisted Living Concepts is also evicting 11 residents on Medicaid at Victoria House in Port Townsend on Feb. 1.
Only private-pay residents are to be accepted after that date.
Laurie Bebo, ALC's CEO and president, has said the company is ending its contract with Medicaid because there are several residents at Victoria House who need more care than the facility can provide.
Bebo said some of the Port Townsend residents could be transferred to Crawford House, an ALC-owned facility in Kelso. Four of them are moving to Seaport Landing, another assisted-living facility in Port Townsend.
Bebo said the company's action at Victoria House does not affect Medicaid-covered residents at ALC's Prairie Springs assisted-living facility in Sequim or Laurel Park in Port Angeles.
But she also noted to the Olympian that her company is in transition to private-pay housing only.

Seniors face eviction because of funding gap
Keri Brenner
At 86, Bertha Allen was living out what seemed to be her golden years encircled by friends, family and caregivers at West Woods assisted living center in west Olympia. Then, the bottom crashed out.
On Oct. 15, 89-year-old Ray G. Allen, Bertha's husband of 66 years, died unexpectedly during a visit with their daughter, Judy Allen, 52. Two weeks later, on Nov. 1, West Woods sent Bertha and 19 other Medicaid-subsidized residents eviction notices, effective Feb. 1. "I am devastated that one person can play God and close all these places," Allen said in reference to Laurie Bebo, chief executive of West Wood's corporate owner, Assisted Living Concepts Inc., based in Menomonee Falls near Milwaukee.
Bebo, whose company operates 208 facilities in 17 states — including 21 in Washington — said the company could not continue to absorb the cost of caring for Medicaid clients without raising rates for private pay residents or cutting annual raises for workers. Bebo said the average private pay rate is $102 per day, compared with the average Washington Medicaid reimbursement rate of $67 per day. Assisted living centers are designed for people who don't need the intensive care of a nursing home but who still require help with bathing, meals and other daily activities. "We're not trying to make money on Medicaid residents," Bebo said. "We're talking about trying to cover the cost of caring for Medicaid residents." The company is in transition to make all of its facilities nationwide into solely private-pay housing. The transition has resulted in the eviction of hundreds of elderly residents elsewhere, including Texas, Nebraska and Indiana, according to published reports. Bebo said the company is not accepting any new Medicaid residents at any of its facilities.
"I think it's just corporate greed, pure and simple," Judy Allen said. "Somebody's got to stand up to these people." Bebo, however, says that it is a matter of not being able to provide the care for people at the reimbursement rate that Medicaid pays. The state is at fault for not paying the full cost, she said. "I don't think it would be fair to our private pay clients to have them subsidize the cost of the Medicaid patients," she said. "Would it be fair to tell our nurses, 'Sorry, you can't have a raise this year, because we have to pick up the slack for Medicaid?' "
Robin Ivey-Black, whose father Howard Ivey, 84, also is being evicted from West Woods, said many of the other assisted living centers she has called in the area have waiting lists. She is trying to place her father in an adult group home, but she said he is not taking the news well.
Howard Ivey ran away from West Woods after his daughter told him about his eviction. Center officials found him and took him home. But a day later, he developed a rash and had to be taken to an emergency room. His daughter says she is avoiding any discussions of the pending move.
"I ask that the state, federal government, West Woods, somebody, figure out a way so that family members can stay," Ivey-Black said. Bebo said the company has offered to place West Woods residents at its Kelso facility, but is only guaranteeing their stay there for about a year, she said.
Kevin Krueger, regional administrator of the state Department of Social and Human Services home and community services unit said caseworkers are scrambling to find homes for the 20 West Woods residents — as well as another 11 residents displaced at an Assisted Living Concepts facility in Port Townsend. "I'm afraid some people may have to be placed outside of the county," Krueger said. He said the state had no advance word from Assisted Living Concepts on its problems with Washington's Medicaid reimbursement rate. Since the state's two-year budget has already been set, the timing is off to start lobbying for more Medicaid funding, he said. "Frankly, I wish this decision the company made had been handled better," Krueger said. "We don't like to place people in facilities, only to have to move again."
Paul Tosch, the Thurston, Lewis and Mason county coordinator for the state's long-term care ombudsman program, said elderly people who suddenly have to move can experience a debilitating "transfer trauma." "Our position is that when these people spent down their private pay (resources) and qualified for Medicaid, the company accepted them for whatever Medicaid could pay and promised they would be allowed to stay," Tosch said. "We feel the company violated that promise."
According to the National Association of State Budget Officers, Medicaid funding has become a major budgetary issue for many states in recent years. The program, on average, takes up 22 percent of each state's budget, the association says. But Bebo said some states, such as Wisconsin, have stepped in to pay the difference in the cost of care for Medicaid patients.
"The Medicaid program has become such a shortfall for us for what it really costs to provide care for Medicaid patients," she said. "Unless the state steps in, providers like us are no longer able to accept Medicaid clients and still stay afloat."
Keri Brenner covers Thurston County and Tumwater for The Olympian. She can be reached at 360-754-5435 or

Attorney to meet with Vic House Eleven

Steve Robins, Lead Attorney for NW Justice Project in Port Angeles, will be in Port Townsend on Thursday to meet with Victoria House residents and families who are affected by the cancellation of the facility's Medicaid contract. This will be their first meeting to get acquainted, gather information and plan strategies. We're not sure what will happen in the long run but we're glad to have legal representation and get started with our case.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Letter to the Editors

You might be interested in reading my letter to the editors of our local newspapers. Here it is:

Recently both The Leader and the Peninsula Daily News had articles on the decision by Assisted Living Concepts (ALC) to cancel their Medicaid contract which is tantamount to eviction of the residents living there who rely on Medicaid to assist in covering the cost of their care. Reporters contacted Laurie Bebo, President and CEO of ALC for her comments. Ms. Bebo indicated that the main reason for the decision was that there are residents who require skilled nursing care and have refused to move to another setting. I would like to respond to that accusation.

RCW 70.129.110 provides for the discharge of residents. I won’t bore you by quoting the law but it requires facilities to permit residents to remain in the facility unless certain requirements are met. One of the reasons that a resident may be discharged is if their needs cannot be met in the facility. Before the facility discharges a resident they must attempt to avoid the discharge through reasonable accommodations and a 30 day notice is required if accommodations do not resolve the problem. Believe me, if ALC had sufficient reason to discharge residents they claim should not be in their facility, they would have done so.

It just so happens that several of the residents who will be evicted are outspoken about the shortcomings of the facility. Can you say R-E-T-A-L-I-A-T-I-O-N?

Bebo states that the low reimbursement rate is not the reason for ALC’s decision, but I would like to speak to that issue. The reimbursement rate IS too low. There has not been a substantial increase in many years. The reimbursement rate does not cover the cost of providing care for residents. There are many good providers who have elected not to accept Medicaid residents for that reason. Action by the State Legislators is badly needed to correct this situation. Please contact your representatives and ask them to attend to this matter.

Assisted Living Concepts got help to build Victoria House...How will they help low income residents?

Back in 1996 when Assisted Living Concepts (ALC) was building Victoria House, they received help from the Washington State Housing Finance Commission (WSHFC) to the tune of $8,500,000 in revenue bonds to acquire a mortgage to provide long-term tax-exempt financing. So, what did Assisted Living Concepts promise to do in return for this generous assistance? They have 36 units and are required to set aside 15% (6 units) for residents at 50% of median income for the county and 5% (2 units) at 35% of the median income for the county. Until now they have met some or all of this requirement with residents receiving Medicaid.

How will they meet this requirement after the Medicaid residents are gone? We don't know. John Estes, LTC Volunteer Ombudsman for Victoria House contacted Terry Raiso, Western Divisional Vice President of Operations and posed that question to him. Mr. Raiso responded that at this time they would not offer discounted rates to qualified low income housing residents; if they can't find someone who can pay the current market value, they will hold the units vacant. However, a representative from the WSHFC tells us that the facility must be making a good faith effort to fill the low income units or they will be out of compliance with their regulatory agreement. Looks like ALC has a dilemma. One wonders what consideration they gave this commitment before deciding to evict the Medicaid residents.

We Have An Attorney!

I'm so pleased to report that we now have an attorney. Steve Robins, Lead Attorney for NW Justice in Port Angeles has agreed to assist us in fighting the eviction of residents at Victoria House. I will be meeting with Steve on Monday of next week. I'm hoping that later in the week he will be meeting with Victoria House residents and their families.

Setting the record straight....

Earlier in this blog in the posting titled "There ought to be a law" it was reported that Oregon has a law to prevent eviction of residents on Medicaid. This information was based on verbal information from a reliable source who should know. However, after talking to someone from the Oregon LTC Ombudsman Office, I'm told that they do not have such a law. Sooo, we have conflicting information and we certainly do not want to spread information that is incorrect.

I am in the process of finding out what, if any, states do actually DO have such a law but it's Thanksgiving week and people I need to contact are out of the office. I'll keep working on this and let you know what I find out. Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A comment from John Watts, PT's city attorney

John Watts , Port Townsend's city attorney, sent a letter to the city council members, in which he commented on the issue, as raised in yesterday's council meeting by Nick Harper and Doug Campbell. The entire letter follows below, but the gist is in the following paragraphs:
City Council should provide direction to the City Manager (and City Attorney) if Council would like a draft ordinance brought forward, or if Council wants to review the matter further. By copy of this email to some citizens who have contacted the City, I am not in a position to do something here without Council direction.

Separately, I could not find any state regulation that might apply to this situation. Interested parties might ask state officials if Victoria House-type facilities are regulated with respect to lease terms (including termination).

Also separately, there may be private legal options available to a resident. One speaker last night said in effect that his parent had been promised eviction would only occur for certain named causes. I am not in a position to provide legal advice on a private legal matter.

In other words: We are encouraged to:
  • lobby the city council for an ordinance on this matter,
  • ask our state representatives whether current regulations prevent evictions
  • lobby our state representatives to create such regulations, urgently.
John Watts , Port Townsend's city attorney, wrote:

At last night’s City Council meeting, members of the public asked in effect if the City could do something to prevent the termination of leases for Medicaid residents at Victoria House. A similar issue came up several years ago when a resident of San Juan Commons was threatened with eviction for maintaining a flower garden outside her window against Commons rules.

At that time at the request of Council, I reviewed City legal options with MRSC (the non-profit service center providing general legal advice to Washington cities and counties). The email from MRSC staff attorney Paul Sullivan is copied below. The state landlord-tenant law allows a landlord to evict without any cause. (Retaliation evictions are prohibited. Discrimination based on race, creed, color, etc. is separately prohibited.) In effect, per MRSC, state LL-T law _may_ preempt and prevent any city action. No other city (except Seattle) has a “just cause” eviction ordinance. (Aside, a city business license ordinance that attempts to regulate business conduct regards lease terms, including termination, would face the same issue – namely, is the matter preempted by state LL-T law.)

City Council should provide direction to the City Manager (and City Attorney) if Council would like a draft ordinance brought forward, or if Council wants to review the matter further. By copy of this email to some citizens who have contacted the City, I am not in a position to do something here without Council direction.

Separately, I could not find any state regulation that might apply to this situation. Interested parties might ask state officials if Victoria House-type facilities are regulated with respect to lease terms (including termination).

Also separately, there may be private legal options available to a resident. One speaker last night said in effect that his parent had been promised eviction would only occur for certain named causes. I am not in a position to provide legal advice on a private legal matter.

Thank you and please call with any questions.

John Watts

City Attorney - City of Port Townsend
250 Madison Street, Suite 2
Port Townsend, WA 98368
Telephone: 360/379-5048 Fax: 360/385-4290
*From:* Paul Sullivan []
*Sent:* Tuesday, July 24, 2001 1:07 PM
*To:* Watts, John
*Subject:* Just cause evictions

Erica Zwick from our library asked that I look at your recent inquiry in which you ask for sample "just cause" evictions ordinances. Erica contacted several tenant associations and determined that no city in Washington, except for Seattle, has adopted a just cause ordinance. I have verified that information, to the extent I could, by doing a search under our multiple municipal code database.

As to materials in our library, I did find a previous inquiry on the
subject, in which we (Pat Mason) said: May a city add a just cause eviction provision to their local housing code. A just cause provision would limit the right of landlords to evict tenants.

The legal issue involved is whether such a provision has been preempted
by the state in the Landlord/Tenant Act, Ch. 59.18 RCW. There is one case which has considered this issue,_ Stephanus v. Anderson_, 26 Wn. App. 326 (1980). That case did involve a just cause eviction provision in the Seattle Housing Code. The court indicated that such a provision was preempted by the state Landlord/Tenant Act and did not provide a substantive legal right to the tenant. However, the state statutes have been amended since that case and it is not clear that the precise holding in that case would control if the issue were raised again.

Because of concern that this area has been preempted by the state most
cities have not attempted to add a just cause eviction provision to their housing code. The city of Seattle does have such a provision, but that is the only city in the state as far as I am aware that has adopted one at this time. I have recently [ in 1991] been contacted by the office of the city attorney in Kent and Bellingham concerning this precise issue. I am not aware that either city has decided to enact a just cause eviction provision at this time, but both cities are considering or have considered in the recent past whether to do so. You might wish to contact Mr. Bruce Disend, City Attorney of Bellingham, (206) 676-6903 [now Joan Hoisington is the city attorney], or Mr. Roger Lubovich, City Attorney of Kent, (206) 859-3340, in order to obtain their analysis of this issue. In summary, it does appear that an argument can be made that the state Landlord/Tenant Act has preempted the authority of a city to include a just cause eviction provision in their local housing code. If the city chooses to enact such a provision, it should be aware that it is subject to potential legal challenge and the outcome is uncertain at this time. Neither Bellingham nor Kent ever adopted such an ordinance.

Erica did a search on the Internet. Using the search engine,
she typed in "just cause evictions" and received quite a few hits, including some from Oakland, California. Thus, while Seattle may be the only Washington city, there may be some on the national level that have adopted the ordinances.

I hope this is helpful. As always, don't hesitate to contact us, if we
can be of any other assistance.

Contact your State Legislators

The power to correct the problems causing the displacement of eleven residents at Victoria House rests in the hands of the State Legislators. Please contact them as soon as possible and ask them for two things:
  1. Increase the reimbursement for the care of residents on the nursing home waiver program, COPES. The current reimbursement level has not received a substantial increase in a number of years. Retaining these residents in their facilities is a losing proposition for facilities. Moving these residents into nursing home care would be much more costly for the state.

  2. Pass a new law that would require facilities who decide to no longer accept Medicaid to gradually phase out the program by attrition rather than uprooting vulnerable elderly citizens from their homes and risk the emotional and physical fallout of the stress. This is just not something that should happen to anyone during the sunset years of their lives.
Legislators for our 24th Legislative District are:

Senator James Hargrove, 411 Legislative Building, Box 40424, Olympia, WA 98504-0424, /Telephone360.786.7646,Fax360.786.1323, Home Office: Port Angeles, Box 2496, 535 East 1st Street, Port Angeles, WA 98362, 360.457.2520; Hoquiam Office: Box 427, 311 7th Street, Hoquiam, WA 98550, 360.533.9477.

Representative Lynn Kessler, 339A Legislative Building, Box 40600, Olympia, WA 98504-0600, Telephone 360.786-7904, District Office: 535 East 1st Street, Port Angeles, WA 98362, 360.457.2520,

Representative Kevin Van De Wege, 316John L. O'Brien Building, Box 40600, Olympia, WA 98504-0600, Telephone 360.786.7916, District Office: 311 7th Street, Box 427, Hoquiam,WA 98550.

Please let us know if you contact your legislators and what type response you received.

City Council Meeting - Report

The Port Townsend city council meeting hall was swamped - filled to the brim and overflowing! - with citizens burning with the need to say their piece. It was a people-power extravaganza!

Unfortunately, they weren't there to ask about city policy about renewing permits for businesses built with public money and about to evict Medicaid recipients. No, the real outrage in the community had to do with the threat to close the Mountain View swimming pool.

Nick Harper and Doug Campbell stood up and addressed the council. Their points were that the city issued a permit for the Victoria House, and that the permit would lapse December 31st. They asked that the council consider ways of linking the issuance of a new permit contingent on keeping as many as possible of the Victoria House Eleven instated in the facility.

In terms of hope-for-humankind it pleases me to report that one of the council members had tears running down her cheeks during Doug's 3-minute comment. Thanks for that, Councilwoman Medlicott.

In a private conversation after the meeting, Mayor Welch promised he would give this web address to City Attorney, John Watts, and get back to us about whether there is anything the city can do.

So, action step: contact each of the council members and the city attorney. Politely ask that something be done at the city level about the permit - and suggest that pressure be put on the Assisted Living Concepts company with regard to the facility's unilateral decision to cut its relationship with Medicaid. Click on this link for contact information for the council members. And click here to write an email to John Watts. Alternatively, use paper mail. Direct correspondence to the person of your choice, City of Port Townsend, 250 Madison Street, Port Townsend, Washington, 98368. Be polite. Be concise. Be clear - but be writing.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Bebo Email Address

Crooks & Liars reader Graucho found us Bebo's email address: Laurie Bebo

Anybody want to say something to Ms. Eviction? Keep it legal and as polite as you can manage, but *do* consider sharing opinions with the thirty-six-year-old who thinks evicting grannies is good business.

There outght to be a law... and some states already have it!

Hullo, visitors from Crooks & Liars! (Thanks for the link, Blue Gal) - and indeed, there are states that don't permit eviction of patients from nursing homes.

We'll hear more from Sue Estes, Regional Ombudsman, but I know of Illinois, which made such evictions illegal in 1979, and Oregon, which did so this year, after the Assisted Living Concepts ghouls evicted every Medicaid patient in the state in one grand move.

Washington should have that law, too. In fact, so should the OTHER Washington.

If you're local to Port Townsend, be at the City Council meeting tonight at 6:30. If you're not, find out the conditions in your state and work to change them. Quick, before you or someone you love needs the laws to be in place.

Is Wayne Still Missing?

Still no sightings of Wayne at Victoria House.  Where could he be?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

City Council Meeting - Monday at 6:30

The Port Townsend city council meets on first and third Mondays at 6:30 p.m., at the City Council Chambers.

The Victoria House facility is within city limits, and is subject to city ordinances. Anyone with questions about this (or knowledge about how to get it on the agenda) is welcome to show up.

Are you coming on Monday? Leave a comment, too. Maybe they'll need to pull in some extra chairs.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Saturday Demonstration

About 100 people showed up for the Sunday picket line outside Victoria House, demonstrating against the eviction of eleven senior citizens from the assisted living facility.

The demonstration was covered by the Port Townsend Leader.

The Peninsula Daily News also covers the eviction. Their first story on the subject notes that there is help available: Kevin Krueger, the state's Department of Social and Health Services regional administrator for Home and Community Services, refers the families of those in need at Victoria House to see the agency's Web site.

Making a habit of evicting seniors

The grand Bebo purge was announced this June (see linked story, here). From the post on ElderLawAnswers: "Over the next five years, company officials say they plan on having their 1,800 remaining Medicaid recipients move out, either voluntarily as they choose to move into other assisted living facilities or nursing homes, or involuntarily through evictions."

ElderLawAnswers, a website that gives some informed answers to the questions that arise in situations such as the Victoria House Medicaid Purge, suggests ways to respond to an "assisted living discharge" (follow the link for the full article).

Medicare Advocay has some useful lessons about assisted living evictions. Hopeful news: many of the cases where litigation was pursued were settled. Moreover, states (such as Illinois, in 1979) can make rules that prohibit Medicaid evictions.

Comments, ideas? We need all the help we can get on this. Especially those of us who don't plan to be young and healthy forever. If you have information or ideas, leave a comment. Thanks!

Victoria House Eviction - the facts

From the Port Townsend Leader:

Eleven residents of the assisted-living facility were told individually [...] Thursday [November 1st] that they need to move by Jan. 31 because Assisted Living Concepts, a Wisconsin-based national public company traded on the New York Stock Exchange, is no longer accepting state Medicaid at the Port Townsend facility.
Laurie Bebo,
CEO and President of Assisted Livings Concepts, which runs the place, seems to think that's just a fine business practice. A large chunk of the rest of the human race pretty much disagrees.

Watch this space for action alerts, facts that matter, and links to other organizations working on issues like this one.