$1.68 million. That’s what company controlling millions in taxpayer dollars wants back from fired CEO

Article in the Winston Salem Journal today:

Cardinal Innovations filed a lawsuit Monday in Mecklenburg Superior Court against fired chief executive Richard Topping.

The state’s largest managed care organization – which controls hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars – is suing to recoup $1.68 million in severance from Topping, as well as prevent him from collecting any further payments approved by the former board that was disbanded Nov. 27.

The lawsuit says Topping’s severance represents “excessive and unlawful payments.”

Cardinal oversees providers of services for mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse for more than 850,000 Medicaid enrollees in 20 counties, including Forsyth and five others in the Triad. It handles more than $675 million in annual federal and state Medicaid money.


An investigation by McGuireWoods LLP was requested by a reconstituted board, formed in January and approved by state health Secretary Mandy Cohen, along with interim chief executive Trey Sutten. It was conducted by McGuireWoods partner Kurt Meyers, a former federal prosecutor.

The lawsuit represents a new action by Cardinal, and is not in response to the previous board’s lawsuit against the state to allow for executive salaries, including for Topping, that exceeded those permitted by state law.

However, it does represent a follow-up on the temporary restraining order and then preliminary injunction won against Topping and the former board filed in the same court.

The injunction prevents Topping and the former board from interfering with N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ regulatory actions versus Cardinal that began when Cohen ordered the takeover of the organization on Nov. 27.

The former board took action against Topping’s employment at its Nov. 17 meeting by terminating his contract without cause. The board, at Topping’s request, would have been allowed to stay on through Dec. 1.

Cardinal said in the lawsuit that “Topping’s motive in asking the board to allow him to remain CEO was so that he could use his position as CEO to ensure that Cardinal Innovations paid him the lump-sum severance before his departure.”


Now to my opinion:

Disclosure: I have not read the Complaint and would love someone to send it to me. But, on the face of this article, my experience in the legal world, and my limited knowledge about the whole Topping debacle:

While we can all agree that Topping’s salary, plus bonuses and perks, was absolutely repugnant and offensive to taxpayers (like me), Topping did not get there all by himself. The Board of Directors met, discussed Topping’s salary, and voted to give him that salary. The Board of Directors, essentially, is the heart and the brain of Cardinal Innovations.

Is Cardinal Innovations going to sue itself for bestowing such an outrageous salary, plus benefits, to Topping?

Because if I am Topping and I get sued for having a high salary, I am going to point at the Board of Directors and say, “I couldn’t have gotten paid without your votes, Board. So have fun and sue yourself.”

BTW: Isn’t this lawsuit a conflict of interest?? It was only last year that Cardinal filed a lawsuit asking the court to ALLOW TOPPING TO CONTINUE TO RECEIVE SUCH OUTRAGEOUS SALARY THAT NOW – SAME COMPANY – IS SUING BECAUSE IT GAVE THIS SALARY TO IT CEO…which is it, Cardinal? Or is it just a matter of following the wind of public opinion? 

Not to mention – HOW IS CARDINAL FUNDING THE LAWSUIT (ATTORNEYS’ FEES) – WITH OUR TAX DOLLARS!!!!!!! I mean, good for Womble Carlyle, the law firm hired with our tax dollars to spend more money on a losing case (my opinion) because Cardinal mismanaged our tax dollars! Winner, winner, chicken dinner! Last year it got paid to file a lawsuit to keep Topping’s salary and perks. Five months later it’s hired to sue for giving Topping’s salary and perks. See blog.

Does anyone else not see how screwed up this is?????

About kemanuel

Medicare and Medicaid Regulatory Compliance Litigator

Posted on March 26, 2018, in Behavioral health, Cardinal Innovations, Health Care Providers and Services, Injunctions, Knicole Emanuel, Lawsuit, Legal Analysis, Managed Care, Medicaid, Medicaid Advocate, Medicaid Attorney, Medicaid Providers, Medicaid Recoupment, Medicaid Services, Medicare and Medicaid Provider Audits, Mental Health, Mental Health Problems, Mental Illness, Monetary Damages, NC, NC DHHS, North Carolina, Tax Dollars, Taxes, Taxpayers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. almagayle50@aol.com

    I’ve been dealing with Cardinal for over a year as relative provider.  They made every false accusation they could make to terminate me as relative provider, but they have nowhere for my son to go, so they  have been able to keep him in his home but taken out over $60K in support to my home.  The only way to end Cardinal is  for counties in their catchment area to give them 30 days notice and withdraw from Cardinal.  I live in Orange and while they say they’re working on it, they never just go ahead and do it.  What makes it worse is that Mark Dorosin, as head of the Orange County Commissioners, is also a civil rights attorney and law faculty.  He should have been full force to end this for his constituents, but he went mum many, many months ago.  

    • yes ma’am I agree with you they don’t want relatives to be paid care providers. They think we should do it for free since it is a family member but have no other location to place them and we as family members know them best and what they need. I am a single care provider for my sister.

      • They are consistently trying to get my daughter to take her brother. She is not physically strong enough to handle him and she is a young single woman, who must provider for herself. NC and no other state I know of ever goes after the father. If they want someone else to care for my son, they need to go to Texas and demand his father come and assume responsibility for him. My ex-husband teaches ethics at the University of Texas School of Public Health, but like many fathers he walked just before my son turned 10. He stopped seeing him and even asking about him 13 years ago. I just did the math. Cardinal owes 1.7 million back. They have pulled $67K out of my home. They are in 30 counties. If they do this to one Relative provider in each county, they have their 1.7 million to pay back. Nobody is stopping them, not even, Trey Sutten or Many Cohen.

  2. They cut services and funding for the clients. They pay minimum wages and no benefits to the care providers all because they say there is no money or funds available

  3. And that graphic with a text from him to Murphy is….irrelevant to the lawsuit. This is an example of clutching at straws and attempting to save face..all the while looking foolish.

  4. Don’t expect to get anything out of an OAH hearing either. The chief witness for Cardinal, a regional supervisor, perjured himself and I had a police report to prove it. Did Judge Anderson care? Not at all. Just to make it all better she allowed the Cardinal attorney to write the Final Decision for her. Guess who he/she decided for. If anybody thinks Cardinal has changed, they aren’t getting what I’m getting.

  5. I’m still trying to get anything like justice for my son. The corporate office won’t take a call. I don’t think Trey Sutten is involved in oversight of that company. He’s doing TV prime time ads now about what a good job he’s done. I assume those ad dollars are medicaid dollars. I also think Chuck Hollowell runs the company and Sutten is just window dressing. When you can’t even get a fair state hearing here, what’s the point of any of it.

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