NEW YORK (Jan. 14)
Rabbi Bernard Bergman has filed a lawsuit for $1 million in damages in Federal District Court here charging that his constitutional rights were being violated in the investigations of nursing homes in which he is a major figure. The suit was filed against Assemblyman Andrew Stein, William Cabin, an assistant New York State Welfare Inspector General, and John L. Hess, a New York Times reporter. The Bergman suit charged that Stein, Cabin and Hess were presenting “an unremitting barrage of unfair, inaccurate, maliciously false and prejudicial reports” of alleged improprieties and criminal acts by Rabbi Bergman.
The complaint cited both civil and criminal federal civil rights laws as having been violated by the acts of the defendants designed “to prevent and hinder the constituted and proper authorities of the State of New York from granting equal protection of the laws to the plaintiff,” and “by exaggerating and manufacturing allegations against the plaintiff so that public officials would be unable to consider any and all allegations…in accordance with due process of law–that is, impartially, free from outside influences, and according to established procedures.”
Attached to the complaint filed by Rabbi Bergman, were a number of exhibits which illustrate the nature of the false allegations made against him in the press. Specifically, the complaint denied the allegation that there exists a “Bernard Bergman syndicate” of nursing homes in New York State. It alleged that this false characterization has been repeated in a “regular and unabated” manner since October, 1974, in order to inflame the public against Rabbi Bergman. As a matter of fact, Rabbi Bergman has an interest in the operation of only tow nursing homes in New York. Judge Charles Stewart; Jr. has scheduled a hearing on Jan. 22 on the request for a preliminary injunction.
Stein heads a temporary state commission on living costs which has been investigating the nursing home industry and has made public charges of alleged wrong-doing in the operations of Bergman-owned nursing homes. It will hold joint hearings on Jan. 21 with the United States Senate subcommittee on long-term care. Rabbi Bergman has failed to appear before the Stein committee, Stein said, in response to the lawsuit, that he hoped it meant Rabbi Bergman would testify at the Jan. 21 hearings. Hess began reporting last September on abuses in nursing homes. Stein, Cabin and others then began investigations of Rabbi Bergman’s activities.