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Illegal ALF? Or simple boarding house?

By Marty Clear
10/7/2010 © Health News Florida
If the picture painted by state regulators and inspectors is accurate, Clearview Manor in Tampa is an illegal assisted living facility, where residents have been ripped off, verbally abused and forced to use coffee filters when no toilet paper was available.

In May, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration revoked Clearview’s license, calling owner Kevin Kladakis "immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous or substantially injurious to consumers."

And in September, an AHCA inspector alleged that Clearview was still operating as an ALF and using an unlicensed employee who, according to the state, is legally required to have a license. That prompted AHCA to seek an injunction to try to shut down the facility.
 
But Kladakis, who has battled with AHCA for years, paints a far-different picture of a boarding house that provides residents a place to live and three meals a day. He said AHCA sought the injunction after he already closed down the assisted-living facility.

"It’s not an ALF anymore," he said. "It’s an independent group home. We don’t provide any services other than three meals a day, and everyone gets the same meals. We don’t administer medication or anything like that."

The dispute, which is playing out in Hillsborough County Circuit Court and the 2nd District Court of Appeal, has been ongoing since 2005. That is when AHCA originally filed suit to try to prevent Kladakis from running an ALF in the state.

A judge sided with AHCA, leading to the agency's move in May to revoke his license. Kladakis has appealed the revocation and, at the same time, now faces the injunction case in circuit court.

AHCA declined to comment on both the original lawsuit and the injunction. Robin Baker, the district manager for the Florida Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, said she couldn’t comment about the suits other than to detail complaints that her office has received and confirmed during the past decade. Volunteers with the ombudsman program advocate for ALF residents.

The complaints range from issues with cleanliness, air quality and temperature to allegations of verbal abuse, neglect and mishandling of residents’ money. In 2007, at least one resident complained that Kladakis was withholding his or her allowance.

AHCA records show a history of violations of regulations involving record-keeping and dietary and medicinal procedures. Most of the problems cited in ombudsman and AHCA reports were corrected promptly, records show, though Baker said some of the most egregious complaints her agency investigated have not been reported as corrected.

But Kladakis said the facility is clean --- "gorgeous" even, he said --- and the residents are happy. He also blames at least part of his troubles on harassment from ombudsmen.

And besides, he argues, AHCA does not still have juridisction because Clearview is now an "independent group home,'' or in older-fashioned terms, a boarding house. Those types of homes are subject to the same laws that govern apartment buildings and other rental properties, Kladakis said.

Ann Boyd, the live-in house manager of Clearview, is named with Kladakis and Clearview Manor Inc. in the AHCA lawsuit that seeks an injunction. She is the employee who was alleged to have provided services to residents illegally.

Boyd said she's shocked by the allegations and never thought the place where she has lived and worked since July was an ALF.

"It’s a boarding house," she said. "It’s just one big happy family. I just cook and clean. I’m nearly 40 years old and I’ve never been involved with the police or anything. So to find out I’m being sued, well, I’m just literally awe-struck."

Clearview, which is adjacent to the Plant High School football field in South Tampa, consists of four one-story buildings that include 15 beds. It currently has 10 residents, including three couples, who pay $150 a week or $650 a month for a room and three meals a day.

Both Kladakis and Boyd said she does not perform any duties that would require a license. She does not control or administer medications for residents, and she makes the same meals for everybody. If any residents had special dietary needs and Boyd made meals specifically for them, she would need a license, Kladakis said.

Most of the residents, who range in age from their mid-30s to their late 50s, work or go to school, Kladakis said. A few of them, who have lived there since it was an ALF, can’t handle their own finances and have third parties who pay their bills and give them an allowance.

On a recent weekday afternoon, a few residents were chatting around a table under a canopy in the courtyard, and another sat watching TV in a small common room. The facility was clean and decorated, and appeared to be in good repair, but in obvious need of paint in some interior and exterior areas.

Kladakis said legal bills from the original lawsuit, plus the forced closure of the ALF, have currently left him unable to afford attorneys to handle the cases.

As he appeals the license revocation, Kladakis this summer also stopped operating another facility he owns, Assisted Living With Grace, as an ALF. But an AHCA inspector kept stopping by Clearview, leading to the allegation that Kladakis was operating an ALF without a license.

"Honestly, I thought I was done with AHCA," he said.

 --Marty Clear is an independent journalist in Tampa.