Attorneys for a company that contends Louisiana wrongfully terminated its nearly $200 million Medicaid claims processing contract can question the state health agency’s chief lawyer, a Baton Rouge judge ruled Monday over the state’s objections.
State District Judge Tim Kelley’s ruling cleared the way for Client Network Services Inc.’s attorneys to take deposition testimony of Department of Health and Hospitals executive counsel Steve Russo on Tuesday.
DHH attorney Jay O’Brien indicated the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal would be asked to review Kelley’s ruling.
The deposition will be taken as part of CNSI’s lawsuit against the state, DHH and others. Kelley’s ruling comes three months after a special state grand jury indicted former DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein on nine perjury counts related to his involvement in the 2011 award of the lucrative multiyear state government contract to his former employer, CNSI.
DHH attorneys have cited the attorney-client privilege between Russo and Greenstein in balking at CNSI’s request to take Russo’s deposition.
At a hearing Monday, CNSI attorney Lewis Unglesby argued to Kelley that DHH already has waived the attorney-client privilege.
In court documents, lawyers for Maryland-based CNSI contend that Greenstein’s indictment confirms that Russo testified about his conversations with Greenstein.
The indictment alleges in count eight that “Greenstein testified falsely regarding legal advice that he claimed to have received from DHH Staff Attorney Stephen Russo,” CNSI attorneys point out.
“Ostensibly, the grand jury must have received conflicting testimony from Russo regarding legal advice he provided to Secretary Greenstein, which means that somebody waived the privilege,” the company’s attorneys argue in court documents. “In that event, such a waiver would be a complete waiver as to any subject matter on which Russo testified.”
O’Brien told Kelley that CNSI’s request to take Russo’s deposition is a “sideshow” and “red herring” for the court and said the company can obtain the information it seeks through other people.
“My questions to Mr. Russo will be about Mr. Russo,” he told the judge. “We’re not here on a fishing expedition.”
Unglesby called Russo a “very serious witness.”
“Clearly Mr. Russo was at the center of many of the activities involved in this case,” Kelley said in agreeing with Unglesby.
Greenstein’s attorney, John McLindon, attended the hearing and said afterward that Greenstein has no problem with CNSI’s attorneys questioning Russo. Greenstein has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
Greenstein’s alleged untruths occurred during sworn testimony before a state Senate confirmation hearing and before the grand jury. The alleged perjury related to testimony he gave about contacts with CNSI.
The state alleges there were improper contacts before, during and after the contract’s award. Greenstein acknowledged minor contact. Records indicated steady communication between Greenstein and CNSI executive Carroll Creighton. McLindon has said the two are friends and a vast majority of the communications were personal.
Greenstein, who was a CNSI vice president from 1995 to 1996, resigned from DHH in April 2013, denying any improper involvement. He had been named state health secretary by Gov. Bobby Jindal in July 2010. He was confirmed by the state Senate the following year.