TRENTON – Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, (D-33), of Hoboken, has donated to charity $5,200 in campaign contributions after a news story revealed the donations came from relatives of a member of the group purchasing the Hoboken University Medical Center.
After a Star-Ledger article over a week ago pointed out that Ramos received two $2,600 max contributions from relatives of Vivek Garipalli, a member of HUMC Holdco, the group purchasing HUMC, the assemblyman told State Street Wire that he would donate the money to charity, half of which has already been paid.
“The second I found out about it, this was in the works the next day,” Ramos said.
The two donations came from Drs. Laxmipathi and Lakshmi Garipalli, father and mother of Vivek Garipalli, which Ramos said he didn’t realize.
Laxmipathi Garipalli was one of two cardiologists indicted on charges of embezzlement at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). Then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie charged Garipalli and a cohort with collecting $840,000 for no-show jobs and making unfounded patient referrals to UMDNJ’s cardiac unit in order to keep state funding and accreditation for the program.
Laxmipathi Garipalli pleaded guilty in 2008 to embezzlement of $280,000. He paid $560,000 to resolve a civil suit brought by the federal government over the issue. Attempts to reach Laxmipathi Garipalli for comment were unsuccessful.
Ramos said that $11 million for the Hoboken hospital that he sponsored in the state budget was not intended in any way to facilitate the sale, but rather to fund operating costs and replace an $11 million loss of state aid.
In fact, Ramos has been critical of the sale process because the city and the municipal hospital authority have not made the other bids for the hospital public.
Between the bids and the recent bankruptcy filing by HUMC’s non-profit management firm, Hudson Healthcare, Ramos is skeptical that the process is beyond reproach.
Ramos said he didn’t work on the language for the $11 million budget item personally, and didn’t know that it was designed to cover debt on $52 million in bonds that the city holds for the hospital. Part of HUMC Holdco’s purchase proposal was to assume all of the bond debt, and now Ramos is wondering if the $11 million doesn’t change the playing field for other bidders.
“What if the other bidders knew $11 million (was going to be provided)?” Ramos asked. “I think all of the bids should be released to the public.”
The municipal hospital authority – the independent agency set up to oversee the only city-owned hospital in the state – made the bids available to the City Council, one of the members of which asked the bidders directly to make their bids public before the process was complete. Several of the bidders declined.
The authority will make the bids public after the hospital sale and relief of the $52 million city-backed tab have been completed, a major goal of Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer. One of Zimmer’s top priorities when she took office was to move the hospital into the private sector.