Children and Families Commission OKs Lending Ruane to CalOptima

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The Orange County Children and Families Commission voted unanimously this week to lend its executive director, Michael Ruane, to CalOptima as its acting chief operating officer.

The commission action followed a “mutual aid” request Aug. 17 from CalOptima’s board of directors for Ruane to work for up to a year at the $1.4-billion health plan.

CalOptima, which serves about 430,000 low-income county residents, has lost 15 top executives in the past year, including its chief executive officer and its chief operating officer.

Under the draft contract approved by the board of the Children and Families Commission, Ruane’s “total compensation” can’t go beyond $325,000 a year, which includes his current $225,000 salary, plus medical and other benefits.

Ruane will be replaced as commission CEO by Christina Altmayer, a commission consultant who currently serves as its chief financial officer and director of its pediatric health services program. Her annual $120,000 contract will remain the same, and she will continue to perform her other duties as well.

Altmayer is president of Pasadena-based Altmayer Consulting, which according to its website, “specializes in performance management for public agencies.”

The commission met for about 20 minutes in executive session and then unanimously approved the mutual aid contract.

Commission board member Mark Refowitz, who also is chairman of the CalOptima board and heads the county’s Health Care Agency, attended the closed-door meeting but left the open session before the vote.

Earlier he said he was concerned about the appearance of a conflict of interest, even if there was no legal conflict. Refowitz and Social Services Agency Director Michael Riley serve on both the CalOptima and Children and Families Commission boards. Commission lawyer James M. Donich said because their jobs require them to serve on the boards, they did not have conflicts of interest.

Ruane could start at CalOptima as early as next week. The health plan’s acting CEO, Michael Englehard, leaves Aug. 24 for his new post as head of Ventura County’s Gold Coast Health Plan.

Under the draft contract approved by the Children and Families Commission board, CalOptima will pay Ruane’s salary to the commission each month. The payments will be made in advance so the Children and Families Commission won’t be open to criticism for potentially using its tobacco tax funds to temporarily cover Ruane’s salary, said Donich.

The commission is financed through a 50-cents per pack tax on tobacco approved by voters as Proposition 10 in 1998. It provides a wide range of services to children, including financial help to hospitals and clinics.

CalOptima hopes to have a permanent CEO in place by November. It’s unclear how long it will take the new CEO to fill the other executive vacancies.

— TRACY WOOD

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