CEO says turf war sparked bill targeting pre-paid burial vaults

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association is supporting Senate Bill 874, which would eliminate something called “constructive deliveries”. Right now if you pre pay for a burial vault 70 percent of your money must be put in a trust and kept there until the vault is needed.

“However what StoneMor is doing and some of the corporate cemeteries are doing is they are burying the vault or putting it in a field where its stored, constructively delivered, so that they are able to take the money out of trust put it into their corporate coffers and then transfer ownership to the consumer,” said Kathleen Ryan, Ex. Director, Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Assoc.

The CEO of StoneMor, Lawrence Miller, says the company has been conducting business like this for years with few complaints about their service or the quality of their products and this bill only came about after StoneMor entered into a lease with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia cemeteries.

“We are involved in a turf war with a handful of funeral directors in southeast Pennsylvania that are losing their monopoly in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia cemeteries,” said Lawrence Miller- CEO, StoneMor Partners.

Miller says there is also a political connection.

“Senator Tomlinson has a very nice funeral home about ten minuets away from one of the catholic cemeteries. He has competition now. It is that simple,” said Miller.

Senator Tomlinson says SB 874 is about consumers.

“I gain nothing from this. This is purely a consumer issue. It protects the consumers money into the future. Who knows what the product is going to look like if you try to deliver it today,” said Senator Tommy Tomlinson, (R) Bucks County.

Which is what StoneMor does. Pre need purchased burial vaults are often buried in the ground years before it is needed.

“You wont find any issues throughout the country that suggests this practice is a problem for the consumer,” said Miller.

Abc27 showed Miller images of burial vaults stored outside at Woodlawn Memorial Gardens in Harrisburg, a cemetery owned by StoneMor. Some of the vaults were cracked and filled with water.

“We certainly do keep a certain amount of inventory, they do almost 200 burials out there, so you are going to see a number of vaults sitting out there not necessarily to be used for families,” said Miller.

Senate Bill 874 passed out of the senate last year and now sits in the house consumer affairs committee.

 

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