In a searing ruling, Wednesday a federal court threw out a lawsuit that accused Los Angeles County of retaliating against AIDS Healthcare Foundation for criticizing its public health programs and policies.
“Rather than a sincere attempt to vindicate their First Amendment rights, the court fears [AHF] instituted this action in an effort to obtain a tactical advantage in their ongoing political battles with [the county] and obtain leverage,” the U.S. District Court of Central California stated.
AHF sued the county in late 2012 after the county audited it and concluded the foundation owed the county $1.7 million.
The county said the foundation billed it for serving county residents whose care should have been paid for by other agencies.
AHF denied this and called the billing “retaliation” for its political advocacy.
“The Department of Public Health is gratified by the judge’s ruling to dismiss the federal lawsuit claiming retaliation. It is unfortunate that taxpayer dollars compounded by countless hours of staff time and resources were used in litigation to defend against these baseless claims,” said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, county public health director.
“We will continue to routinely audit our contractors to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used to benefit the public,” he said.
Foundation co-founder and president Michael Weinstein said the battle was not over yet.
“First of all, you win some and you lose some — we will appeal.”