Managed-care mental health agency fires CEO

November 18, 2017 - 2:51 pm
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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — The board of directors of a regional managed-care mental health agency fired its CEO on Friday, barely a month after his pay had been reduced in response to a state audit questioning his salary and benefits.

The Winston-Salem Journal reports Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions removed Richard Topping from his duties during a vote. The removal takes effect on Dec. 1.

"I support the board's decision to terminate Richard Topping as CEO, but I'm concerned about the contract that allows 10 other high-ranking Cardinal executives to exit with him, all with two years' salary payout," Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, and one of the legislators' top health-care experts, said Saturday.

Trey Sutten, interim chief financial officer of Cardinal, has been appointed to take Topping's place on Dec. 2 on an interim basis. Sutton is a former N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Medicaid official in the McCrory administration.

The board also voted Friday night to remove Bryan Thompson, the only representative of the former CenterPoint Human Services of Winston-Salem, which Cardinal took over in June 2016.

Both moves took place during Cardinal's regularly scheduled quarterly board meeting.

The State Auditor's Office in May accused Cardinal of spending excessively on salaries and benefits for their CEOs and on conferences and Christmas parties.

The state Department of Health and Human Services conducted its own investigation, and its interim report discussed last month by a General Assembly committee raised red flags about generous severance packages for Topping and 10 other executives and key employees through mid-2019.

According to the report, the packages would cover at least two years and kick in for several reasons beyond being fired without justification. Paying them could cost millions, pose a "substantial risk" and could jeopardize Cardinal's ability to operate should there be a management shake-up, the review said.

In October, Cardinal voted to reduce Topping's salary to $204,195 after he made more than $600,000 in the year ending June 2016.

The DHHS report calculated Topping's salary and bonus during the year ending June 30, 2016 as $617,526, nearly three times more than what the next highest CEO made among the state's seven regional mental health agencies. The Office of State Human Resources told Cardinal in August that Topping's salary can be no higher than $204,195, in keeping with a salary range.

Cardinal, the largest of the seven, defended Topping's compensation as lawful and filed a lawsuit to keep it.

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Information from: Winston-Salem Journal, http://www.journalnow.com

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