Dems: DeVos owned troubled nursing home

Published October 3, 2006

LANSING (AP) - Democrats yesterday repeated their charges that Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos, along with his family, controlled a troubled nursing home company cited for allowing elderly patients to be abused.

"He made a huge investment in this company," Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer said of Alterra Healthcare Corp., which went bankrupt in 2003 and was folded into another company. "Dick DeVos had the responsibility to care for vulnerable senior citizens at Alterra."

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis denied that DeVos had a controlling interest in the company and said he sold his shares after the company went bankrupt.

"He made it very clear that he was a passive investor," Anuzis said, adding that DeVos owned less than 1 percent of the company's stock. "He was not involved in the board. ... It's a cheap shot."

Later yesterday, DeVos tried to tie Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm to investments made by the state of Michigan in two companies he said have engaged in abuse and neglect of patients.

"The governor is accusing me when in fact the same activities could be said of the governor under her direct responsibility and control," he said. "This is a double standard. It's another cynical attempt to distort me and distort my record in order to advance a political career."

Granholm campaign spokesman Chris De Witt said the governor had no say in the state's decision to invest in Community Health Services and Health Management Associates.

"The law precludes the governor from making investment decisions. ... DeVos made a personal decision to take control of Alterra. That is a huge difference," De Witt said. "All of Governor Granholm's investments are included in her tax return."

Most state investments involve retirement systems covering state workers and public school employees and are overseen by the state treasurer and the Bureau of Investments.

The state holds shares in Community Health Services through the S&P 400 Midcap Stock Index and in Health Management Associates through the S&P 500 Large Cap Index Fund, said Treasury spokesman Terry Stanton. He confirmed that governors don't get a say in state investments.

"The state treasurer is the sole fiduciary," he said.

According to the DeVos campaign, among the problems found at the facilities were dozens of instances in which a male patient sexually abused female patients and problems with doctors inadequately caring for patients, leading to deaths that could have been prevented.

Brewer said DeVos controlled Alterra not just through stock ownership but by loaning the company nearly $200 million in 2000 and getting in exchange changes in the company bylaws that allowed the DeVoses and investors close to them to appoint four of the corporation's nine directors.

Even though they were in the minority, those four directors had veto powers over board decisions because the votes of at least two of those directors were required for any motions to pass.

Among those directors was Jerry Tubergen, president and chief executive of RDV Corp., the Grand Rapids company that makes investments and handles taxes for DeVos, his siblings and his parents, Helen and Richard DeVos Sr., a billionaire who co-founded Amway Corp.