Another CalOptima Resignation

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CalOptima board member Mary Anne Foo resigned Monday, the last of the directors on the board when Supervisor Janet Nguyen redesigned its makeup.

Foo, whose term expires next month, said she was resigning early “to let the new board move forward.”

She is the third board member, including Chairman Ed Kacic and Vice Chairman Jim McAleer, to resign amidst turmoil in recent months at the top ranks of the health plan that serves about 430,000 low-income, disabled and elderly residents.

In addition, 15 top- and mid-level executives, including CEO Richard Chambers, have left for positions in private industry or other government agencies.

In her resignation letter to Board of Supervisors Chairman John Moorlach, Foo said the reputation of the $1.4-billion health plan was damaged by the loss of so many key executives, which could make it difficult to recruit a highly qualified new CEO.

“I’m sure that the recruitment will be challenging since it was indicated to me that many individuals contacted were concerned about the reputation of CalOptima and the challenges the CEO will now face with few Executive staff left,” Foo wrote.

Foo’s resignation letter also pointed to the leak of a confidential board memo that contained what she called “many flaws.” She said that the memo contained “factual errors” and that the consultant who wrote it based his findings on a small number of telephone interviews and never came to the CalOptima offices. “His assessment was based on a subjective point of view rather than on actual systems and materials review.”

The report was compiled by hospital and medical consultant Arthur Shorr, who said Tuesday he would not comment on Foo’s letter because his review was confidential and had not officially been made public by the CalOptima board.

Foo, executive director of the Garden Grove-based nonprofit Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance, stated in her letter, “I feel the release of the Shorr memo caused irreparable damage to CalOptima and to its Executive Management Staff.”

Foo’s letter went on to say that a different board report, which also hasn’t been made public, “found no significant issues in relation to the matter that was called into assessment.”

Referring to Shorr’s report, she said “what upsets me the most is we lost the best Executive Management Team because of a subjective opinion that was inappropriately released to the media when it was just utilized as one tool in an internal exploratory assessment.”

She also cited criticism the CalOptima board received last summer when it voted to pay an incentive to then-CEO Chambers, bringing his total compensation to $515,743.

Foo said she was on the committee that conducted a six-month salary review process that included an evaluation of more than 30 pages and other criteria.

She also brought up the anonymous letter that was sent in February and accused her of being paid by CalOptima. She and CalOptima officials said at the time the letter was factually wrong.

Foo worked at CalOptima a number of years ago, but “I have never received payment from CalOptima while a board member and have never personally benefitted from my membership on the board.”

Foo stated she was proud of the awards and high ratings CalOptima has received for the quality of its work. “I’ve worked for 25 years in health care from hospitals, clinics, and community agencies and from my experience, have found CalOptima to be truly a national model.”

And she urged the Board of Supervisors to find a way to provide assistance to a still-unfilled “consumer” seat representative, someone who is covered by the CalOptima programs.

Whoever fills that seat, she said, will face the same economic issues as the 10 other board members. All but three are volunteers with no staff or compensation. Supervisor Janet Nguyen, Health Care Agency Director and CalOptima board Chairman Mark Refowitz and Social Services Director Michael Riley sit on the CalOptima board as part of their regular jobs and have staff.

Foo urged the supervisors to “please consider allowing supportive services” for the consumer representative.

“The amount of time to participate on the CalOptima board can be overwhelming. Everyone does it as a community service. However, for an actual CalOptima member, this can have high costs especially in relation to child care, transportation, and time off.”

Please contact Tracy Wood directly at twood@voiceofoc.org and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/tracyVOC.

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