Health Department Plans To Give Up Control of Cardinal This Weekend

Jan 24, 2018

Credit Alex Olgin / WFAE News

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says it plans to return control of Cardinal Innovations Healthcare to the new board of directors this weekend.

Two months ago, the state took over the behavioral health care organization that coordinates care for people with mental health, substance abuse and intellectual and developmental disabilities in Charlotte and 19 other counties. That surprise visit from the state came after multiple audits detailing excessive executive pay, generous severance packages, spending on parties and luxury board retreats. The state fired the CEO, dissolved the board and assumed day-to-day operations of the organization.

A few days after the takeover, the state got a temporary restraining order to stop former CEO Richard Topping and former board members from interfering with the temporary DHHS takeover and accessing the organization's funds.

That action was prompted by e-mail exchanges state officials found between board members and Topping about moving money from Cardinal accounts. Topping told WFAE the intent was to place that money in a trust “for the benefit of Cardinal’s mission and its members.”

Topping said he was concerned about the state using taking that money. The state said it cannot and would not transfer that money from Cardinal.

Since the November takeover, the state appointed an interim CEO and oversaw the creation of a new board of directors. The new board will meet for the first time this Saturday in Winston-Salem. Secretary of Health and Human Resources Mandy Cohen laid out her expectations for the new board.

“I expect the board and leadership team of Cardinal Innovations to focus on the patients and consumers they serve, operate the organization in a transparent manner with a focus on accountability, and allocate resources in accordance with state and federal law,” she said in a prepared statement.

She also said she expects board members to take an active role in leading a culture change at Cardinal.