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Alleged slurs at Jewish nursing home cost taxpayers $250,000

October 17, 1997

CHICAGO (AP) _ A Jewish nursing home that accused health inspectors of making anti-Semitic remarks and urging residents to ask for pork will get $250,000 in a settlement with the state.

Among other things, the Sherwin Manor claimed that the inspectors who visited in 1991 made such remarks as ``Those Jews, they’re so cheap″ and ``They are Jews. You can’t trust them.″

An attorney for the state said he settled last month only to save taxpayers an even costlier legal battle.

``Most of these charges were made up, I believe,″ Gary Starkman told the Chicago Tribune. ``I would have wanted to hear their witnesses under oath in court.″

The nursing home’s owner, Abe Osina, had filed a civil rights lawsuit against six state inspectors, accusing them of anti-Semitic behavior intended to ``harass, humiliate and inflict emotional distress.″

Osina said that even though the inspectors knew the Orthodox Jewish home maintained a strictly kosher kitchen, they urged residents to demand pork.

``The inspectors were saying, `Those Jews, they’re so cheap,‴ said Maria Lasko, a cook at the nursing home.

She said the inspectors also asked why milk was not served at some meals. ``I tried to explain Jewish religion says you don’t eat milk and meat together,″ she said.

Sherwin Manor residents and staff made their accusations in sworn statements, saying the inspectors aimed slurs at both Jews and Polish-born employees.

``It’s really just one person’s word over another’s,″ said Tony Sanders, a state health department spokesman.

One of the inspectors who was sued, Judith McAuliffe, is the widow of state Rep. Roger McAuliffe of Chicago and the mother of current state Rep. Michael McAuliffe.

Michael McAuliffe, reached by telephone, said his mother did not want to discuss the case. He confirmed that she still works for the department.

None of the inspectors was disciplined over the incident, Sanders said.

He said that since the 1991 inspection, one of the inspectors has retired, two have left the department to work as nursing home consultants, and three remain with the department.

A federal judge initially threw out the lawsuit, saying it failed to raise a question of constitutional scope. But a federal appeals court reinstated it, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal by the state.

The state then offered to settle for $250,000.

Osina’s lawyer, Howard Hoffmann, scoffed at the notion that the claims were made up.

He said the state would never have agreed to pay as much as $250,000 merely to make a nuisance suit go away. He also said Osina paid far more than $250,000 in legal fees alone to pursue the lawsuit because he believes it is wrong to tolerate any form of bigotry.

``He didn’t want to punish anybody, he wasn’t looking for the last dollar here,″ Hoffmann said. ``He wanted to make a point.″

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