Two years ago, Aspire Ventures launched a new health-care company with a bold plan guided by veteran leadership.
The new company, Clio Health, was to develop specialty-surgical hospitals in five cities.
Construction of its $45 million flagship facility, Clio Health Lancaster, was started in the Stockyards Business Park.
Now, however, the future of that aggressive plan is unclear, as the leaders of both Clio Health and Clio Health Lancaster have been terminated.
The exits of Joe Frank, chief executive officer of Clio Health, and Todd Lord, CEO of Clio Health Lancaster, were disclosed in a lawsuit filed by Lord on March 20.
Lord said Wednesday that they were let go because their positions were eliminated. Frank could not be reached for comment.
Aspire Ventures is a Lancaster-based venture capital firm with an emphasis on developing high-tech ways to improve health care.
Construction of Clio Health Lancaster started in August 2016 on the former Lancaster Stockyards site on Marshall Avenue, at the northern edge of Lancaster city. Investors in the venture include about 20 local physicians.
The 144,000-square-foot facility, which was to create more than 100 jobs in Lancaster city, initially was expected to be completed in late 2017. Then the completion date was postponed to this spring.
The facility remains far from finished and, to passersby, construction appears to have nearly come to a stop.
Local developer Robert Redcay, whose Brook Farms Development owns the Stockyards property and who is an investor in Aspire, said the Clio Health Lancaster project isn't dead.
“Not by any means. We’re very close to moving forward,” he said, adding that he expects to have “some major announcements ... within four to six weeks.”
Redcay said construction was slowed by a delay in getting electrical service to the site.
“We were waiting for PPL to connect the main electric, which they couldn’t do for a couple weeks because they had their people on other jobs,” he said.
PPL spokesman Kurt Blumenau confirmed that the hookup was postponed for about three weeks, from late February to March 19, because PPL’s crews were focused on restoring power to customers who lost service due to bad weather.
“We were in touch with hospital representatives about the delays,” said Blumenau.
Essam Abadir, Aspire founder and CEO, and spokesmen for the project’s general contractor, Funk-Beiler, and its architect, Bernardon, could not be reached for comment.
Tim Harrison, a Clio Health Lancaster investor who used to own the Lancaster Stockyards and led its redevelopment into a business park, declined to comment.
Randy Patterson, the city’s director of community and economic development, said he was not aware of any changes in the project.
In the court filing, Lord is suing Aspire, Abadir and Clio Health Lancaster for $450,000 in severance, deferred salary and bonus, contending he’s entitled to the money but has not received it.
Lord argues that his employment contract calls for severance in the amount of one year’s salary ($325,000) if he’s terminated without just cause, as was the case, plus one year of health insurance.
Lord adds that he agreed to defer $120,000 of his 2017 salary in exchange for a $5,000 bonus. Both were to be paid when Aspire got a construction loan for the Stockyards project.
The loan was obtained in February 2017, according to the lawsuit.
In October, Abadir told Lord and Frank they “probably” would be terminated on Jan. 1. They were, says the lawsuit.
Lord adds that Aspire and Abadir also have failed to pay for his health insurance, which Lord has had to purchase himself, at a monthly cost of $1,600.
Redcay declined to comment on Lord’s lawsuit.
Lord and Frank were hired in 2016. Lord had been CEO of the OSS Orthopaedic Hospital and Ambulatory Surgical Center in York. Frank had been CEO of The Heart Group in Lancaster.