Michael Ruane, former head of the county’s Children and Families Commission, will retain his $225,000 salary in a new job as government liason for CalOptima, the county’s health plan for disabled, low-income and elderly residents.

The commission loaned Ruane to CalOptima in August to be acting CEO after a succession of top and key executives at the health plan quit to work in private industry or other government jobs, leaving at least 16 vacancies, including chief executive officer and chief financial officer.

Ruane worked in the county’s chief executive office as government liason before going to the Children and Families Commission. The commission, which allocates the county’s share of voter-approved, Proposition 10 tobacco tax revenues for health, education and housing programs, announced his resignation Feb. 6.

His permanent move to the $1.5-billion CalOptima health plan had been rumored for months. Ruane reportedly was close to former Supervisor Bill Campbell, who also served on the Children and Families Commission board but was termed out as a supervisor in December. The word in county corridors was that Campbell arranged for Ruane to have some sort of permanent slot at CalOptima. Campbell declined to discuss it when asked last fall, and Ruane said the rumors were “just speculation.”

He will retain his $225,000 salary plus benefits and hold the title chief of strategy and public affairs. His job will be talking to officials in county, state and federal offices about CalOptima. He did similar work while at the county.

CalOptima spokeswoman Kellie Todd said Ruane’s position was created by Michael Schrader, who began in December as CalOptima’s CEO. She said Schrader selected Ruane for the position, which does not require the approval of CalOptima’s board of directors.

“In a way that is consistent with the CalOptima policy, I am promptly and thoughtfully filling key positions following consultation with the Board of Directors and the senior executive team,” Schrader wrote in an email forwarded by Todd. She said that by “consultation” he didn’t mean he discussed Ruane with board members, which could have been a violation of California’s open meeting laws. Instead, she said, he sent the CalOptima board of directors a memo telling them he planned to hire Ruane.

“He does not wait to hear back,” she said. “It’s for information purposes only.”

When CalOptima was created in 1994, the CEO was given broad authority to hire top executives. Todd said that authority was expanded in January 2012.

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

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