Facility for elderly facing scrutiny

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Aug. 5, 2008

GUILFORD — Relatives of the former owners of the Marotta Manor residential care home are planning to open a new facility at the same Whitfield Street location.

Phillip “Butch” Marotta Jr. and his wife, Deborah Marotta, last week received approval from the state Department of Social Services to open a 20-bed facility for elderly residents.

Previous owners Amelia Marotta and her son, John Marotta, closed the home in 2003 after state officials found that they had misused state money.

Amelia and John Marotta are Butch Marotta’s mother and brother.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said his office has begun an investigation into the financial relationship, if any, between the former and current owners. He said he was not aware of the application until last week.

“We are investigating particularly whether family members involved in financing or operating the Marotta Manor residential care home previously are now involved in this application,” Blumenthal said.

Butch and Deborah Marotta said they were not involved with Marotta Manor and its former troubles. Deborah Marotta worked at Marotta Manor as a teenager, they said, but other than that, they were not employees.

“It’s not a reopening; it’s a whole new facility,” Deborah Marotta said.

She added: “We don’t want to get people up in arms thinking, ‘It’s going to be reopened by the same people.’ It’s not — that’s finished business.”

The Marottas said they are still awaiting final approval from the state Department of Public Health, but may be able to start accepting new residents as early as this week. They plan to call the new residential care facility Green Grove.

The building, at 148 Whitfield St., has been vacant since June 2003, when Blumenthal and then-Social Services Commissioner Patricia Wilson-Coker found the former owners had misused at least $500,000 in state money meant for residents’ care on personal expenses such as beer, cigarettes and diapers.

Under an agreement with the state, Amelia and John Marotta were required to repay $500,000 and were prohibited from owning or operating any state-financed facility for 10 years.

At the time Marotta Manor closed, Blumenthal said his office “would have serious and significant concerns if an immediate family member were to run the facility.”

Last week, he said DSS approval of a certificate of need for the facility raised new questions.

“We have reason to be concerned because the ban applied to family members of the individual now reopening the facility and that ban should be enforced vigorously,” he said.

The DSS certificate of need, which recognizes lack of a residential care facility in Guilford, includes several conditions of approval for the Marottas to open Green Grove.

Among them is the requirement the owners submit quarterly statements of their salaries and wages to DSS for three years after opening.

They also are barred from employing any other family members without specific consent from DSS.

Deborah Marotta said no one expressed opposition during their hearing for the DSS certificate of need in June. They received the certificate last week.

Butch Marotta said he has been taking care of the building physically and financially for a few years, when there were several proposals from different parties to buy the property and start a new residential care home.

Marotta, who now owns the building, said those plans fell through and he ultimately decided to start a business himself.

“They put us through all those hoops and hurdles,” Marotta said of the DSS application, which he submitted earlier this year.

Town Planner George Kral said Butch and Deborah Marotta do not need new town approval to open the home if they plan to use it for the same purposes as in the past.

Butch and Deborah Marotta owned and operated Corner House, a residential care facility in Meriden, until 2005, and Deborah Marotta recently worked for Tidelawn Manor Rest Home in Westbrook, according to their application.

Deborah Marotta said Green Grove will offer 24-hour supervision for elderly people, monitoring medications and meals, but no medical services.

“It’s like they were almost living at home — they can go out and go to the senior center,” she said. “That’s the level this is benefitting; it’s when they can’t stay home for whatever reason.”

According to the certificate-of-need approval, the DSS found the new facility “will contribute to the quality, accessibility and cost-effectiveness of health care delivery in the region by providing a less institutional and a less expensive alternative to nursing home care” and fill “the apparent need for additional residential care home beds in the Guilford area.”

Deborah Marotta said she has had several calls already from area hospitals and nursing homes about space for residents.

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