In a good old-fashion media-politician confrontation, County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef’s office called the police on an ABC-TV reporter and cameraman after an interview got out of hand.
Here’s the tale based on a Rockland County Sheriff’s Department incident report and an ABC news report broadcast on Friday evening under “Nursing Home Bill Controversy” –
The incident started after 4 p.m. Friday with ABC reporter James Hoffer and cameraman Byran White waiting outisde the County Office Building in New City to talk to Vanderhoef about why the county filed a notice of claim seeking money from the estate of a nun, who died when an unbolted closet toppled on her in the county-run Summit Park nursing home. Rockland is seeking more than $200,000 to reimburse Medicaid for the care of Mary Murray, also known as Sister Mary Daniel at St. Zita’s Villa in Monsey.
The ABC report showed that Vanderhoef led Hoffer and White into the county office building through the back door, which is locked for security reasons. Vanderhoef responded to questions from Hoffer as they walked.
Vanderhoef said he could not discuss the nun’s death because the family has filed a lawsuit and called her death a tragedy. He also said the county’s filing of a Medicaid claim probably was automatic, but he wasn’t aware of the details.
At one point, Vanderhoef walked into this private sanctum, turning his back on Hoffer. Hoffer persisted by saying Vanderhoef had the discretion to stop the Medicaid filing, asking from the doorway, “Why are you walking away from me.” To which Vanderhoef replied, “Because I am not talking to you.”
CJ Miller, the executive’s spokeswoman, then appeared and began escorting Hoffer and cameraman out of the office. Miller said, “This is not acceptable… You will have to leave the office right now,” as she held out her arm and then closed the door. She then put her hand in front of the camera lens pointed at her.
Outside the building, according to a police report, a sheriff’s officer detained Hoffer and White in their car as they were about to drive off, based on a complaint of an unwanted person in the County Executive’s Office.
The officer was told that Vanderhoef “finished answering their (ABC News crew) questions and told them to leave when they continued to follow him.” Miller told the officer the crew “became disruptive and (James Hoffer) put a hand on her and lightly pushed her causing her to feel alarmed and threatened,” according to the police report.
The officer then went to speak with Hoffer and White. They told the police that Vanderhoef invited them inside and “upon being told to leave were doing so,” according to the police report. They also stated, “They were being pushed out; someone put their hand over the lens of the camera,” according to the police report.
When the officer went back to County Executive’s Office, Vanderhoef said he didn’t want Hoffer to return without a scheduled interview. Miller didn’t want to file any charges, but had called Hoffer’s bosses.
Hoffer and White then left and filed their report for the 6 o’clock news on Friday.