James Lott, vice president of the Hospital Association of Southern California, said Friday he is leaving the trade association at the end of May.

Lott didn’t give a reason for his departure, writing in a post on his HASC blog that his “health is fine, work is great, just moving on to the next chapter of my life, which will be in health care. … What else would I do?”

Jim Barber, HASC president and CEO, said in a telephone interview that “there’s no connection” between Lott’s May 31 departure and conclusions by an Orange County grand jury this year that tied HASC to an anonymous letter sent in 2012 that members of the Board of Supervisors used to try discrediting former CalOptima board Chairman Ed Kacic.

Lott, HASC executive vice president for policy development and communications, is one of the trade association’s lobbyists and worked with another HASC lobbyist in 2012 on an ordinance to give hospitals stronger voting power on the CalOptima board.

Lott didn’t return a telephone call Friday seeking comment on his reason for leaving. But in an email to Voice of OC he wrote, “For the record: Any report from any source about my reason for making a career change is creative conjecture.”

In January, the grand jury issued a report titled “CalOptima Burns While Majority of Supervisors Fiddle.” The report recounted problems at CalOptima, the county’s health plan for about 430,000 low-income, disabled and elderly residents.

As part of its report, it implicated HASC in distribution of the anonymous letter.

HASC has never publicly replied to the allegation. Asked Friday whether he would discuss it, Barber said, “I have no comment on that.”

The grand jury asserted that copies of the letter were faxed from HASC’s Orange County office. The report stated that the anonymous letter “contained unique markings created in the scanning process.” Those marks matched “identical markings” on a different fax sent from the same office.

The ordinance change was sponsored by Supervisor Janet Nguyen, who sits on the CalOptima board.

Asked Friday whether Lott’s leaving HASC had any connection to the anonymous letter, Nguyen said she didn’t know. “I only met him [Lott] once. Why don’t you ask them [HASC]?”

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

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