It is surprising to me that it has been nearly a year since I have written anything here. So much has happened. Now we are planning a relocation, selling real estate to make so we can be less encumbered, giving away things we no longer us, etc. So many details. I have also been thinking about the emotional things I have to clean up as part of the overall process of downsizing. It’s like I’m downsizing emotionally too at this point in my life.
One of the big things that I have struggled to let go of occurred between people I used to consider friends. I have sat with this quite a bit lately trying to figure out why this thing has been harder for me to let go than other things. By comparison, I had a therapist for the last five years with whom I had a significant trust relationship. He was not in truth or integrity about something and this impacted me, several of my friends, and a greater community. But I have no anger, no sense of betrayal, so resentment…. Instead, while I ended that therapeutic relationship, I have only compassion for him and those of us who were effected. It was enormously hard for a while but I moved through it with relative speed.
So I have compared this experience to another trying to figure out what the difference has been, what had made me able to truly let go of one but not the other. After much contemplation, I have concluded that it was because in the situation with this therapist, I spoke my truth – to him, to other people in the community, to my friends, and anyone else involved in this event and community. And the process of speaking my truth enabled me to let go. With this other situation I have never done that. I can’t directly speak to these people and history has taught me that they are not open to an honest conversation that would lead to resolution. And recently they relocated to Israel which makes a meeting very unlikely.
By way of history, my husband and I used to be friends with Michael Gutman (“Michael) and Yahel Gutman (“Yahel”)- or at least we thought we were friends. We took them to our house in VT, we had holiday and other meals together, we went to the same synagogue, our children played together. All the things that friends do together.
At one point Michael and Yahel approached us to invest in an urgent care center – New England Urgent Care – at this point just an idea. We talked about providing seed money along with a few people other people. This would be in addition to a small business loan and perhaps other things although I do not recall specifically. Then one day Michael came to our house and told me that if he did not have a check for $100,000 from us that day that he would lose the small business loan. We trusted him. And on a handshake I wrote that check without the paperwork being done yet.
Michael went through a few attorneys who were not competent, in my opinion, and there were significant delays in getting the paperwork done. There was much to negotiate. During all this time I was in massive struggle in my life. I had severe depression and was extremely suicidal often. I was being treated by a psychiatrist who had me on about 11 different medications which significantly altered my ability to cognitively and emotionally function in life at the time. Michael was one of the doctors (both at the urgent care center and St. Francis) who treated me, sometimes directly and sometimes tangentially, when I was suicidal and/or had done something to hurt myself. Because of this role he played he knew what medications I was taking and my mental status. It was during this time that he hired a different attorney and the documents were finally done. Documents that were signed while I was in this massive distress and my husband was trying to hold things together at home while I could not.
These documents provide that he is entitled to earn $150,000 per facility as medical director. As of this writing, there are four locations for New England Urgent Care of which I am aware so this would be $600,000 per year. Yahel is or has been highly paid as some kind of clinical director. An awful lot of money for a small business. My husband is an attorney in CT and I used to practice law in Ohio – so we are educated people. However, we were individuals, a couple, and a family in distress. The timing is quite coincidental. Did Michael take advantage of my mental health condition at the time? I don’t know. I may never know. It is impossible to know someone’s inner intentions. I’m sure he would deny anything of the kind. I believe though that he had so much knowledge of my mental heal crisis and medications as one of the doctors treating me that consciously or unconsciously it was a factor. I am at least suspicious that he relied on this information and our general trust of them as friends to get agreements done that contain provisions that in a better mental state I would not have agreed to. And his actions post signing of the documents has created an even greater sense of mistrust of Michael and Yahel.
I think my mental health history is part of why I have been reluctant to deal with this issue. Why I have not been willing to talk about it, address this business with Michael and Yahel. I did not trust Michael to observe privacy laws. I have personally known him to violate HIPPA. For example, when I was co-president of the synagogue a young woman made vague claims against the rabbi of misconduct. As co-president of the synagogue at the time, I am aware of what investigative measures were taken and the conversations with the Board of Directors. During the investigation, Michael told me that this woman was a patient at the urgent care center and that she had mental health issues. Information which I did not ask for, was not entitled to, and to which I’m certain this woman did not consent to have provided to me. And that is only one example. I know that Yahel was often working to get Michael in compliance with privacy laws. He would start to tell us something about someone and she would stop him in conversation. I don’t have any information about how compliant he is several years later. But because I have witnessed non-compliance with privacy laws by him, I do not have any faith that he would protect my privacy as a patient. And to be clear, I do not consent to his divulging any of my medical information to which he was privy and if such disclosure were to occur I would seek all legal remedies available to me. While I have been quite recovered mentally and emotionally for some time – having fired the psychiatrist that was so overmedicating me, taken myself off all of the medications, and getting proper and effective therapy over the last several years. I am no longer willing to live in this mental health oppression that says don’t talk about it, people with think poorly of you type of thing. I just don’t care much what people think. I’m doing well, better than I ever have done and without the absurd amounts of medications. So I won’t be silent over it. The specifics of my struggle are private and should remain so unless I choose to tell my story.
In any event, the documents were signed. During the time before and after the signing, my husband did a significant amount of the real estate legal work for the urgent care centers the details of which I do not know, but it was talked about openly among Michael, Yahel, my husband and myself that he was doing this work. And it was a lot of work. Which made Michael’s statements that he built the urgent care centers all on his own even more offensive. If it was true that Michael was going to lose the small business loan unless we gave him an immediate check for $100,000 and my husband provided so much real estate legal work, then he did not build the centers on his own. I take nothing away from Michael or Yahel in the hard work they put in to build up the centers. But neither am I willing to say he or they did it themselves; it just isn’t true. After a time, my husband wanted a return on the investment. And so did I. Our logic was that it was not right for Michale and Yahel to pull out so much money as salary and then claim that no dividends were going to be declared because there were no profits. They began paying us a few thousand a month for a time. It was our understanding that they wanted to do this and call it legal fees because they did not want dividends and then have to pay any other investor. I was not involved in the actual conversations so I don’t know for sure what the reasoning was. Part of these conversations occurred with Brian Lichtenstein, who was the bookkeeper for Michael. We had had several meetings with him and Michale and Yahel at Brian’s office.
It was then that the relationship fell apart. Michael stated to my husband he was upset that Brian was brought into the conversation. My husband was surprised because it was Michael that set up meetings with Brian to discuss financials in the past. It was this that was stated by Michael and the reason that we were not friends anymore. It offended him. Of course our perception of the hubris and greed demonstrated by the Gutmans was also offensive. The bottom line, we were hurt in addition to the business issues described here. We thought we were friends. We could not understand why it could not be resolved. Greed was the only answer we could speculate would cause such a rift. It was never all that clear to us and all we could do was speculate as to their motivations. But is sure did bring home that one should never mix money and friendship. And we did that despite our training otherwise, despite society statements that these things will always go wrong. We did it out of misplaced trust.
After this we had one meeting where they offered to buy us out. For a figure we did not find acceptable. During the meeting, Michael kept insisting the value was set at the number of locations currently open. But that denies the very concept of seed money. Also, we found his position suspect when it seemed that they were breaking ground on another location – a fact which we found out later that he did not disclose. But that was a small issue really. What was really telling was that during this meeting Michael made what I perceived to be an implicit threat to bring up private medical information of which he was aware. So it was an ugly meeting. I have not spoken to them since.
Michael and Yahel have relocated to Israel. Michael is still listed as the medical director of the urgent care. How the law can provide that electronic supervision of PAs when the medical director is living in another country is sufficient is perplexing. But not an issue I am addressing here.
So, will this help me let it go? Speaking the truth and shedding the mental health oppression and being willing to acknowledge my previous mental health issues is certainly important. One should not have a mental health issue used as a threat, explicit or implicit, in any business dealing. It is not part of the business agreements.
But I don’t have any expectation of return of the money invested. I have no reason to believe that Michael and Yahel are going to sell the urgent care centers. I can’t imagine why they would if he can draw the medical director salary while living in another county. And at this point, it is not even about the money. It did not really make a difference in our lifestyle. I can’t imagine even speaking to them again especially now that they live in Israel. The one attempt my husband made to attempt to open up a conversation of reconciliation received no response.
On the other hand, just the energetic shedding of the silence that stems from fear is releasing. Speaking my truth is important. It is healthy. And I am no longer afraid to stand in my truth against anyone. It is fighting for myself rather than against anyone else. And unless and until something resolves with the Gutmans, this is my truth.
Finally, to be clear, nothing herein is a statement about the urgent care centers themselves or the quality of services they provide. I have not been there in a number of years and have no knowledge positive or negative about the quality of services or how business is conducted there. Comment on the quality or integrity of services there is not within the purview of this writing.
Just truth. Freedom. Letting go by speaking, or in this case writing, the truth of my experience, my perceptions. The facts are what they are. Determining meaning in them is a mind exercise. I’m less and less interested in the why of things and more and more interested in letting go of what I cannot change. I’m interested in still believing in the general goodness of people and not letting the low vibration behavior of anyone affecting my belief that people are good for the most part. Suspicion from one thing should not bleed into affairs with other people. Because people are good. There are people who can be trusted.
So, what will come of this? Probably nothing in terms of the business or the lost friendship. I doubt they will ever read it. Definitely something in terms of letting it go in the most absolute way mentally and emotionally. Putting this in the slightly public forum of this blog gets me to a place of really being unafriad to speak my truth. Really stepping into freedom from the mental health oppression that among other things made me afraid to talk about how it used to be for me. Which in reality clearly only made me more vulnerable to people’s agendas. I like my newish freedom.