Modified: March 15, 2019 12:59pm
Erie County, NY - Erie County Legislator John Bruso, in his role as the Chair of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, convened a committee hearing on March 14th to question Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein regarding a situation in which a County health sanitarian submitted false inspection reports of local restaurants. Also in attendance and providing testimony was the Health Department’s Director of Environmental Health and an Assistant County Attorney.
Late last year, former Erie County Investigating Public Health Sanitarian Timothy Bean submitted at least 25 falsified restaurant inspection reports to the Department of Health. After his supervisor noticed a discrepancy and began investigating the matter, Mr. Bean resigned from his position. Although the restaurants were re-inspected, and no illness or issues affecting the public were found, the incident raised serious questions about Health Department operations.
Dr. Burstein gave a full report to the committee about the Department of Health’s investigation into Mr. Bean’s misconduct. Dr. Burstein noted that Erie County has a new and improved quality assurance system that will ultimately result in increased oversight for the entire department. She also noted several policies and procedures that have been updated in order to prevent such transgressions from re-occurring, namely phone calls to inspected restaurants to verify a sanitarian has physically visited and conducted an inspection.
“I think this was an important learning opportunity for the committee and for the Department of Health, and I want to focus on how we prevent things like this from happening again through improved procedures and oversight. False inspection reports could lead to the spread of dangerous food-borne illnesses or communicable diseases in our community. The Legislature is tasked with providing oversight into these matters, and I think that’s exactly what we accomplished,” said Legislator Bruso.
He concluded: “The Legislature will be watching the Department of Health and evaluating its future actions to help ensure that a situation like this does not happen again to shake the public’s trust in our public health system.”