Public Relations Man Resigns in Wake of Nguyen’s Allegations

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Laer Pearce, the local public relations man accused by Supervisor Janet Nguyen of “slander,” has resigned as a contractor for CalOptima while strongly denying accusations she leveled at a recent CalOptima board meeting.

“I regret that it has become apparent that Laer Pearce & Associates’ continued work for CalOptima would run counter to our shared goal of helping the organization return to stability as quickly as possible,” Pearce wrote in a March 30 resignation to CalOptima CEO Richard Chambers.

During the March 23 meeting, Nguyen asked other board members to immediately end Pearce’s contract, saying “I’m going to make a motion — and I hope you’re going to join me — to send a strong message that no contractors, regardless of who you are, that we would not tolerate spending taxpayers’ money for an individual or a contractor to go and slander any board members on this board or any of our stakeholders while we’re trying to build that relationship.”

Because no one had verified that Pearce slandered Nguyen, the board instead suspended his contract and was going to give him an opportunity to explain what happened. He resigned instead.

Pearce has “categorically” denied slandering or speaking ill of Nguyen. The supervisor made the allegations during a March 23 CalOptima board meeting, although she didn’t specify what Pearce allegedly said.

The definition of slander is telling one or more people something that isn’t true about someone else that harms the reputation of the person being discussed.

At the April 5 CalOptima board meeting where Pearce’s letter of resignation was presented, Chambers said, “I personally want to express my regrets about what happened.”

In his resignation letter, Pearce thanked other CalOptima board members “for giving me the opportunity to defend my actions. This letter shall suffice for that purpose, as bringing a prompt end to this matter is in the best interest of CalOptima’s employees, members and stakeholders.”

In his letter’s comment about CalOptima’s efforts to “return to stability,” Pearce apparently referred to the staff upheaval that has occurred in recent months after Nguyen and the Hospital Association of Southern California revised the composition of the CalOptima board, potentially giving control to the medical industry.

At least three top executives, including Chambers, have resigned. In the next few months, the $1.4-billion organization may have a board with so many new members that only a few will have served more than a year.

When she made her accusations against Pearce, Nguyen said her information came from an unnamed aide to Supervisor Bill Campbell, a Nguyen ally and Board of Supervisors’ alternate to the CalOptima board.

The conversation between Pearce and the aide apparently occurred while Pearce was doing CalOptima work, getting the views of supervisors about the agency and discussing its future.

— TRACY WOOD

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