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LOS ANGELES — –In a lawsuit, AHF asserts County has conspired to, “…to fabricate an audit, demand millions of dollars from AHF, and then flaunt these false audit findings in front of other providers and the public at large in an effort to intimidate providers into submission. Defendants’ actions have injured AHF and its mission, and in turn, the public at large.”
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) filed a federal lawsuit in California earlier today against the County of Los Angeles and its Department of Public Health as well as several key County departments and County officials including Jonathan E. Fielding, M.D., Director of Public Health and Health Officer for the County, and County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina, and Mario Perez, the Director of the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health, Division of HIV and STD Programs.
AHF is seeking damages and declaratory and injunctive relief based on, “…retaliatory conduct, violations of the federal false claims act, violations of constitutional rights and defamation…” against AHF over the AIDS group’s years-long advocacy and criticism of the County, its Public Health Department and several key health and elected officials. The lawsuit was filed in United States District Court, Central District of California, Western Division (Case number cv 12-10400-PA-AGR).
Included among the many claims of retaliation in AHF’s lawsuit are allegations that its recent activism as the primary backer of Ballot Measure B, The County of Los Angeles Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act (which was voted into law on November 6th)generated considerable opposition to and animus toward AHF simply because the County does not want to enforce the law.
AHF asserts this animus likely came about after AHF sued the Department of Public Health in July 2009 seeking a writ of mandate to force the County to comply with its own Health and Safety Codes related to condom use and worker safety in the adult film industry. Measure B officially goes into effect this month.
In its broader legal complaint, AHF also asserts that, “Rather than using its substantial funding to accomplish the goals in which it is tasked, Los Angeles County, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and various of their divisions and leaders, have indulged in the gross misuse of resources, waste of public funds, favoritism, professional back-scratching, and retaliation against those that hold them accountable for doing their jobs.
“AHF is committed to treating hundreds of thousands of patients in Los Angeles County and around the globe, and is also dedicated to advocating for government and healthcare systems to be accountable, transparent and devoted to serving the public’s health. In doing so, AHF has uncovered, reported, and publicly criticized the Defendants’ for their ineffectiveness and improprieties.
“In return, Defendants have initiated a retaliatory campaign against AHF, including their conspiracy to fabricate an audit, demand millions of dollars from AHF, and then flaunt these false audit findings in front of other providers and the public at large in an effort to intimidate providers into submission. Defendants’ actions have injured AHF and its mission, and in turn, the public at large.”
“The incompetence and improper and illegal governmental activity by Los Angeles County officials laid out in this lawsuit are simply breathtaking,” said Michael Weinstein [pictured], AIDS Healthcare Foundation President.
“These include the misuse of County funds, including misrepresentations made to HRSA and other authorities in order to obtain AIDS funds; the failure to follow statutory guidelines in administering County business and allocating AIDS funds; irregularities and illegalities in the bidding, awarding and implementation of contracts for AIDS funds in L.A. County; outright creation of bogus audit reports and the flaunting the baseless audit findings to the public, including to other health providers in an effort to threaten and intimidate all of the County’s contractors, including AHF;
“the failure to abide by Health and Safety Codes by refusing to regulate the adult film industry; the cancellation of RFPs for services determined to be essential for the public health of the community solely because the County refused to award the contract to AHF; the favoritism shown to certain providers who do not publicly criticize the County; and widespread and ongoing retaliatory conduct by County officials as punishment for AHF’s outspoken criticisms and complaints. After years of such punitive and retaliatory actions by the County, we have had it and filed this lawsuit to address and resolve this behavior once and for all.”