Paterson health director cited non-existent inspection to protect troubled needle program operator | Paterson Times Paterson Times

Paterson health director cited non-existent inspection to protect troubled needle program operator

By Jayed Rahman
Published: October 24, 2017


The city’s health and human services director Donna Nelson-Ivy cited a non-existent inspection in an attempt to protect the troubled needle exchange program operator the Well of Hope from health inspectors.

Nelson-Ivy demanded to know why inspectors from the Division of Health visited the Well of Hope. In her Sept. 1, 2017 email to health officer Paul Persaud, Nelson-Ivy appeared to discourage inspectors from pursuing the Well of Hope by stating an “inspection and monitoring” of 207 Broadway was recently completed through the Ryan White grant program.

The inspection Nelson-Ivy cited does not exist, according to municipal officials. This emerged when the Paterson Times sought copies of the Ryan White inspection reports for the Well of Hope from the city. There are programmatic site visits done by the Ryan White program; however, such visits are to ensure federal regulations are being met; these visits are nothing like the city’s health inspections.

Nelson-Ivy on Monday did not respond to request for comment.

“I think she’s been compromised,” said councilman Michael Jackson of the latest development on Monday evening. He has criticized the Well of Hope and its director Jerome King for unloading millions of needles in parks and other public places.

Nelson-Ivy’s reference of the non-existent Ryan White inspection baffled the health officer. In response to her email, Persaud replied, the Ryan White program has nothing to do with health inspections.

“I am confused about the reference,” Persaud replied to Nelson-Ivy. The health director’s attempt to dissuade the Division of Health from pursuing the inspection, which uncovered a long list of violations at the location, was unsuccessful.

The city issued a second unsatisfactory notice to the Well of Hope.

Nelson-Ivy’s demand to Persaud came out of a text message exchange she had with King. King complained to her that inspectors were targeting his organization. At one point, King speculated the New Jersey Department of Health was the impetus behind the inspectors’ visit.

Nelson-Ivy has faced criticism from dozens of people protesting the Well of Hope. Many of them have criticized her for protecting the needle program operator that opponents say is putting the city’s young people at risk.

The health director has been at the center of a number of controversies. In April, she made public comments that were later proven false. Jackson asked her whether she was aware of concerns employees raised about having the city’s ID program at the vital statistics office.

“They have not shared it with me, sir,” Nelson-Ivy told Jackson in May. She had received an email earlier in the month from the woman in charge of vital statistics raising concerns about intermingling of the mayor’s identification program and vital statistics.

Nelson-Ivy was also criticized for renting the second floor of the health department for $6 a square foot. She leased the space to generate $24,000 in revenue for the city. Later it emerged the city spent $15,540 to renovate the space.

Nelson-Ivy was hired by former mayor Jeffery Jones. She was kept by disgraced mayor Jose “Joey” Torres. She tried running for mayor in 2014. She came in seventh place in a field of eight candidates.

While she was running for mayor it emerged she had hired her sister-in-law Denise Coba to work in the health department. Coba did not meet the necessary job requirements. There was also an anti-nepotism policy in the city that prohibited such hiring.

Nelson-Ivy was later cleared of wrongdoing by her colleague law director Domenick Stampone. Torres had asked Stampone to review the hiring. The state later mandated the city revise its ethics code to prevent a recurrence of the Coba situation.

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