Michael Weinstein strikes again with yet another lawsuit whose costs will be borne by taxpayers…
As Weinstein critic Eric Paul Leue noted this morning, “AHF is nuts – seeking to sue LA for winning against AHF lawsuits, as AHF overbilled scarce HIV funds by $5.3 mil.”
Law360 reports that on Friday ,in a california court, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, “accused Los Angeles County of refusing to hand over documents detailing the alleged use of federal HIV funding to pay for outside counsel to defend the county against a number of lawsuits.”
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation says LA is using its status as the metropolitan area with the nation’s second largest HIV/AIDS burden to win federal funding that it then unlawfully uses to pay attorneys’ fees and other litigation expenses. The organization added that attempts to discover exactly what litigation is being covered in this manner have met with resistance from the county.
“Thus, AHF’s concern is that the county may be reducing the amount of lifesaving HIV-related services it provides in order to impermissibly cover its litigation costs, to the detriment of the health of the people of Los Angeles County,” according to the suit.
AHF says it filed a public records request with the county in September but has continuously been denied access to information related to ongoing litigation that the county says is off-access to the public. The organization claims that the county has already been told in several court cases that ongoing litigation was not exempt from disclosure.
It is suing to force the county to fork over the documents.
Los Angeles County is second only to New York City in terms of the amount of Ryan White Care Act funding it receives.
As part of its participation in the federally funded Care Act, LA County is required to spend $15.9 million in county funds to provide preventive services and medical care, according to AHF.
Litigation expenses do not count as “HIV-related services” under the act, the organization says. Yet the director of the Division of HIV and STD Programs in the county, Mario Perez, asked the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV, which decides where the collective $57 million is spent, to endorse paying for outside counsel using the funds, the AHF says.
When it tried to verify what litigation was being covered by that funding request, the organization says it was met with a cold shoulder. The request was “excessively broad” and included information on ongoing litigation that was exempt from disclosure requirements, the county said.
AHF general counsel Tom Myers told Law360 on Monday that he was baffled as to why the records were being kept secret, as there was “no good policy reason” for doing so. The foundation’s next steps will be determined once access to the documents has been granted, he said.
The new case is AIDS Healthcare Foundation v. County of Los Angeles et al., case number BS152142, filed in the Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles.
UPDATE (Nov 12, 2014)
“If AHF is so concerned about L.A. County using HIV funds for legal fees, perhaps they should stop suing them,” Free Speech Coalition CEO Diane Duke told XBIZ. “I find it laughable that AHF is accusing the county of misappropriation funds when they have attorneys on staff that do nothing but file suits.
“Moreover, they just announced plans for a ballot measure that will cost millions to regulate an industry that has gone over 10 years without an on-set HIV transmission. Meanwhile L.A. County has five new transmissions daily.
“Clearly AHF and Weinstein should worry about how they are wasting resources that would be better served on patient care.”