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Passavant Memorial Homes to expand services

| Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, 9:01 p.m.

Passavant Memorial Homes is acquiring a North Versailles-based operator of facilities for people with developmental disabilities and plans to expand its services.

A Westmoreland County judge this month approved Passavant's acquisition of the Laurel Highlands Foundation Inc., which serves 90 people at 35 residential locations and employs 250 people in Allegheny, Westmoreland and Fayette counties in such areas as Finleyville, Elizabeth and Greensburg. It is funded by the state and federal governments.

In addition to adding a seniors' program to Laurel, Passavant will expand a day program in Mt. Pleasant. A Marshall-based nonprofit that provides care for people with disabilities, Passavant will expand other Laurel Highlands services, such as dental care and physician services.

Passavant is managing Laurel Highlands, and the acquisition should close in about 40 days, Passavant said.

“We have expressed our desire to retain all staff, all service locations, and will be giving a ($2 per) hour raise to all direct-service care-givers to align with our current pay scale,” said Rick D. Senft, Passavant's CEO and president, in a prepared statement.

Laurel's board of directors and the family members of some Laurel clients and residents sued over the acquisition. Some family members who had approached Passavant about a takeover, however, were in favor of it, because they were concerned about Laurel Highlands' long-term viability, Passavant spokesman Tom Meinert said.

Several Laurel members, who have the rights of shareholders, appoint the board and have ultimate authority over governance, declined to comment.

Common Pleas Judge Anthony Marsili Jr. approved a settlement between Laurel and Passavant, ruling that a September 2011 vote by Laurel members to approve an asset purchase agreement with Passavant was valid.

The Laurel board agreed to the settlement only because the state Attorney General's Office threatened to sue directors for using taxpayer money to pay for the litigation, member and former board President John Gera said.

The $1 million in legal fees was paid from Laurel Highlands' fund balance, but the Philadelphia Insurance Cos. is reimbursing that, Gera said.

The Attorney General's Office would not comment.

“We can't confirm or deny the existence of investigations unless the office has taken formal legal action,” spokesman Nils Frederiksen said.

Passavant will pay $1 for the Laurel Highlands Foundation and assume its assets and liabilities, according to court documents.

As of June 30, 2011, Laurel Highlands' assets were valued at $6.5 million and its liabilities at $3 million, according to its most recent tax return.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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