Lawn signs are multiplying as local elections heat up after a confusing start due to the pandemonium associated with redistricting and uncertainty about who was running for what because of extended filing deadlines.
In my state district (District 33) incumbent state Sen. Ed Reilly (elected in 2010) was, until recently, running unopposed in the GOP primary. Dawn Gile (to whom I have contributed) is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. In April, Del. Sid Saab surprised many people, perhaps even Reilly, by filing to run for the District 33 Senate seat after announcing in December that he was seeking a third term in the Maryland House. Reilly announced his retirement within days.
I don’t know if they discussed their rival candidacies; maybe Reilly was planning to retire all along. Regardless, a picture published in a Greater Crofton Council community flyer in July 2016 of the two at a Crofton event seems prescient now. The tagline is, “State Senator Ed Reilly gets his blood pressure taken at Delegate Saab’s Chesapeake ERgent Care. It was a bit high.”
Well Saab may want to check his own blood pressure now. As reported by the Capital on April 29, Saab’s business partner in Drs ERgent Care was indicted on April 22 for Medicare fraud. dr Ronivoivo is one of 18 people in the US recently charged with Medicare fraud for allegedly padding bills for COVID-19 service.
“The indictment alleges that Ronivory took advantage of a national health crisis to line his own pockets,” according to United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron…..ivory owns and operates Drs ERgent Care, LLC, First Call Medical Center and Chesapeake ERgent Care.”
Importantly, Saab was not indicated nor is an indictment a finding of guilt. Ivory said he did nothing wrong and was providing essential services in a national crisis. Indeed, Gambrills Medical Management group’s response to the urgent need for public health services during the pandemic has been a smart business decision. The management group manages First Call Medical Center. Ivory said that First Call was the first provider of monoclonal antibodies for early treatment of COVID-19 in Maryland and by providing testing and treatment for COVID-19 the business has grown from 20 to 180 employees.
Saab launched Gambrills Medical Management group in 2015, the same year he joined the House of Delegates after winning election in 2014. He sits on the Health and Government Operations Committee, which has responsibility for legislation and oversight of health facilities, health occupations and professions, public health, and Medicaid. Ivory, who made three unsuccessful bids for the state legislature, took over the as the registered agent for ERgent Care in 2016.
The company is listed on Saab’s mandatory financial disclosures (he owns between 25% and 49%) along with a statement about the company’s contract with the Maryland health department – “Neither Gambrills Medical Management nor First Call received any funds from the State. I did not participate in any negotiations with the State.”
How does that work? The company has a contract to provide services for the state but they never receive money from the state?
In 2019, Saab tweeted advertisements for the health care company from his official delegate account. Once attention was drawn to the tweets he then took down and apologized. In 2020, the state health department ordered First Call to stop COVID-19 testing because it had not obtained the required permit from the state.
I understand that well-connected companies getting contracts for public business is not unusual, nor is it evidence of skulduggery. Saab is one of many state legislators doing business with the state as private citizens. Furthermore, rapidly engaging health care providers able to respond to the epidemic was essential.
But this particular business has drawn regulators’ attention for questionable practices multiple times and is currently under indictment. As current state delegate on the committee overseeing health care and a candidate for the state Senate, Saab should be willing to answer questions about his businesses. So far, he has told us that he is “not involved on that side of the business.”
Some questions I have are: Why are there multiple companies in the same business under different names? How many contracts with the state are there, with what entities? Why is the management repeatedly raising regulatory alarms?
Presumably, information on the bidding process and about the contracts are available from the state health department, but the more transparency from Saab himself, the better.
Elections are citizens’ most effective tool for demanding transparency and accountability in our elected representatives. We are well within our rights to ask and expect answers about the business affairs of an officeholder or candidate, especially regarding business done with the state. If Saab prefers not to answer questions and live as a private citizen, that’s fine too. Maybe Reilly could come out of retirement and rejoin the race?