EXCLUSIVE: AG’s probe into Elm Manor nursing home still active despite investigator’s apparent retirement

Last Tuesday, Jen Sims received an unexpected call from a familiar voice: Art Vasile, an investigator with the Office of the Attorney General who’s stationed out of the Rochester regional office, or formerly at least.

“He wanted to assure me that he didn’t forget about this, the case is still open and active and that he was going to be retiring next week, actually,” Jen Sims exclusively told FingerLakes1.com.

Sims noted that investigation is still “open and still being worked on” and even mentioned that “somebody else would pick it back up.”

It was still clear to Sims about who would actually resume the pair of investigations into Elm Manor which started because of two stories that were told over the summer exclusively by FingerLakes1.com.

“Now, I know why these nursing homes can get away with all of this abuse.” – Pauline Sowa 

One of those stories came from Pauline Sowa, the medical care proxy of William “Bill” Vishneski Sr., who suffered from an undiagnosed stroke while inside Elm Manor and eventually died at one of his daughter’s home in hospice care, but only after Sowa and his family threatened for a police escort to be sent to accompany an ambulance.

Family in search of answers, as life comes to an end at Elm Manor

Sowa, who also spoke with Vasile is disappointed to say the least when it comes to the current status of Vasile’s investigation regarding the recent death of Vishneski.

After Sims broke the news, Sowa begged the question, “Okay, well, what are they gonna do about it?”

She’s asking more questions that warrant answers in her own mind after she faxed Vasile all of the documents that she possessed regarding Vishneski from Elm Manor back on August 2nd.

Sowa pondered, “So, I don’t even know why he didn’t finish the investigation. How long does it take to do it?”

Since Sowa hadn’t been in contact with Vasile in about two-months, she had been shocked about the fact that the investigations are still ongoing, especially when she had been under the impression that Vasile completed his interviews and submitted the information already.

“Art told me that he had all the stuff. He was going as soon as he got my stuff, he would be able to complete the investigation and send it on to a panel of lawyers in Albany. I was emailing him asking, you know, are we close to getting this report finalized? He never responded to me,” Sowa recalled.

Now looking back, Sowa suggests that Vasile’s departure had been unjustified and something that the Attorney General’s office should have planned in advance.

“Really, I just think that this thing is gone on too long. They had to know in advance that the agent was retiring. If he retired in September, they had to know in August when I was talking to them,” she said.

In-fact the Attorney General’s office had been aware of his departure when Vasile actually spoke with FingerLakes1.com News Director Josh Durso back in late-July over the phone.

For Sowa, she thought that cooperating with Vasile and the state’s Attorney General agency may produce results for the sake of Vishneski and Perryman who passed away, even though she and even Senator Pam Helming [R-54] weren’t fully aware of the process either.

“When he told me right up from the beginning that he trusts me right off the bat, I didn’t say anything. I wanted to be a player. Let the system work, but I did tell [Senator] Helming, she didn’t know that was the process,” Sowa claimed.

But now she is concerned with how Senator Helming has handled the situation in her own district too, even after Sowa personally spoke with her shortly after Vishneski’s sickening story went public on FingerLakes1.com.

“I think you have a lot of Elm Manors in New York State, and they turned a blind eye to it. Now Helming is supposed to be a cheerleader for the senior citizens. She didn’t even know the process of filing abuse charges,”

But even now months after his untimely death, Sowa is still committed to her initial promise in Vishneski’s memory that she would obtain a criminal lawyer to file a suit against Elm Manor.

“If the Attorney General’s Office comes out and says that there was no abuse, then I was going to look for a criminal lawyer,” she emphasized.

“I feel that it’s going to be like those peoples’ lives never mattered.” – Jen Sims

“There’s only one person in like New York State that they can submit it to, and it’s like backlogged, obviously, from way back whenever COVID came down in New York City, and that’s where they’re kind of focusing right now, and why we haven’t been taken care of yet is what Art said,” she admitted.

Sims also hadn’t heard from him in nearly two-months, who actually thought that the case had been officially closed, but is now seemingly still active once again.

Yet Sims has always trusted Vasile and honored his work ethic, but that changed as time passed.

“Whenever Art got involved, I felt like we were going somewhere with it. Elm Manor is going to close down. We’ve got all these people, all of these cases, all this evidence; we’re going to shut this place down, and nobody else is going to have to go there and suffer, and then Art dropped-off,” she explained.

Harold, the husband of the late Beatrice “Bea” Perryman felt that Art failed him too after his wife passed away from COVID-19 just this last April while living inside Elm Manor.

Husband speaks about wife’s death at Elm Manor: “If I didn’t call every day, I wouldn’t have known”

“Harold and I had talked about this extensively about how he nor I could get in contact with Art, and he had said he had called him several times. I’ve called them like, once, just to check in and see how everything’s going, and I never got a call back. So, that’s when it started getting discouraging,” Sims admitted.

The future seems bleak for Sims as someone who has personally suffered from abuse while staying inside Elm Manor for just one weekend.

Disability rights advocate reflects on time at Elm Manor Rehabilitation in Canandaigua

“I think there are legitimate other abuse cases that happened. So, obviously, there is elder abuse that happened within the walls of Elm Manor and I felt like whenever Art got involved, it was going to end and now I feel that it’s going to be like those peoples’ lives never mattered,” Sims shared.

Filing a New FOIL Request with the Office of the Attorney General

His sudden and unexpected phone-call occurred just three days after FingerLakes1.com filed a Freedom of Information Law on Friday, September 18th.

A week later, Assistant Attorney General Abisola Fatade responded saying that her agency has acknowledged a receipt of the request.

“We are performing a diligent search for the records you request.  We will notify you of the status of your request on or before October 26, 2020,” Fatade wrote on Friday, September 25th.

Vasile actually contacted our newsroom on Wednesday, July 22nd and requested for the contact information for Jen Sims, Harold Perryman and Pauline Sowa, all of whom were featured in the investigative reporting series into Elm Manor.

Initially, FingerLakes1.com contacted the Attorney General’s press office four-days after Vasile reached-out to the newsroom via email on July 26th, and still haven’t heard since that initial media request for comment regarding the ongoing investigations until Wednesday, September 30th after a phone-call captured the attention of Director of Communications Kelly Donnelly.

“This is an ongoing matter for our office so we will decline commenting on it further at this time,” Donnelly wrote in an email.
Donnelly also declined to confirm or deny whether Vasile has officially stepped-down from his post, but assures FingerLakes1.com that any of their investigations would not cease even with the departure of an agent.
“I’d also like to impress the fact, without getting into the specific assignments of any one staff member, that the retirement of an assigned staffer would not cause an investigation to be closed,” she concluded.

Editor’s Note: Read FingerLakes1.com’s FOIL request to the Office of the Attorney General which had been sent on Friday, September 18.  

“Art Vasile, an investigator for the Attorney General’s office contacted FingerLakes1.com on Wednesday, July 22, 2020. He inquired and asked us to provide the contact information for multiple sources from an investigative series on nursing home elder abuse cases in Canandaigua. Since then, Vasile has interviewed several sources, including the families of victims in these alleged cases of elder abuse: Harold Perryman, Jen Sims and Pauline Sowa, to name just a few. From my understanding, his investigations on behalf of the Attorney General office have been completed for a period of a few months now. Therefore, I request for the full investigation reports that were drafted by Vasile this summer regarding the cases of Beatrice “Bea” Perryman and William “Bill” Vishneski Sr. from the Elm Manor Rehabilitation and Nursing Center. This request includes any and all records relating to Beatrice “Bea” Perryman and William “Bill” Vishneski as it pertains to their stays at Elm Manor.”