Attorney cites official’s public comments
A Maryland company challenging its abrupt dismissal as Louisiana’s Medicaid claims processor cannot expect a fair shake from the state Division of Administration or its commissioner in an administrative appeal, an attorney for the firm told a judge Monday.
“There’s no way on God’s green Earth they’re going to change their mind,” argued Michael McKay, who represents Client Network Services Inc., before state District Judge Tim Kelley during a hearing.
The judge is presiding over CNSI’s lawsuit against the state.
Attorneys for the state maintain CNSI’s lawsuit is premature because the firm did not first go through the state administrative appeals process in challenging the cancellation of its nearly $200 million multi-year contract.
The appeals process goes through the Division of Administration, the office where the contract was canceled.
CNSI’s attorneys say going through such a process would be futile and a waste of time and money.
In court documents, CNSI attorneys claim Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols stated publicly after the contract’s cancellation, “We have zero tolerance for wrongdoing, and we will continue to cooperate fully with any investigation.”
“We have proved they have prejudged it,” McKay told Kelley.
Nichols’ public remarks were not lost on the judge.
“Certainly the commissioner has made statements in the press,” he said. “This is an unusual situation. She’s made her position known.”
Richard Zimmerman, an attorney for the Division of Administration, countered CNSI nevertheless must go through the administrative appeals process.
“Things can change,” he said, arguing the division could modify its decision.
CNSI wanted Kelley to compel Nichols and state Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert to attend a Nov. 4 court hearing in the case, but in the end the judge denied the request.
Nichols and Kliebert are defendants in the suit.
Zimmerman said CNSI’s termination letter and a later letter spelling out the reasons for its firing are in the company’s possession, and he questioned why CNSI’s attorneys wanted to haul the two state officials into court.
“We are entitled to make our record” for higher courts to consider, McKay said. “We are entitled to make as strong a record as we can.”
McKay said afterward it’s too early to say whether CNSI will ask the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal to review Kelley’s ruling.
CNSI has accused the state of wrongful termination and is seeking damages.
The state canceled its contract for CNSI to process Medicaid claims earlier this year after news broke of a federal grand jury probe.
The state alleged improper communication between CNSI and then-state Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein, a former CNSI executive, among its reasons for canceling the contract — one of the state’s largest.
Greenstein resigned his state post.
CNSI attorneys will question Greenstein under oath at an Oct. 29 deposition.
Greenstein had nothing to do with the awarding of the contract, his attorney, John McLindon, has said.
The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office is leading a special state grand jury investigation into the awarding of the contract.