The Louisiana Board of Ethics filed conflict-of-interest charges against a state health agency employee overseeing Magellan Health Services’ state contract.
The board alleges that Michelle Barnett violated state ethics law by receiving a “thing of economic value” by virtue of her husband’s employment by Magellan, a behavioral health management firm.
The “thing” is the income her husband, Tom, received from Magellan.
The board also charged Tom Barnett with failure to file required reports disclosing his salary from Magellan while the firm was financially interested in transactions involving his wife’s agency.
Magellan had a contractual relationship with Michelle Barnett’s agency that made Magellan a prohibited source under state ethics laws.
Violations of state ethics law can bring up to a $10,000 civil fine. In addition, a fine of one-and-a-half times the value of the economic advantage can be assessed in certain cases.
The charges became public Tuesday when the ethics agency posted its filing with the Ethics Adjudicatory Board, which has been asked to set the case for hearing to determine whether a violation occurred.
Magellan received the $357.6 million state contract in September 2011 to take over private management and coordination of behavioral health care for more than 150,000 Louisiana children and adults. On March 1, 2012, the firm became the single point of access, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for those in need of services. Problems have been cited by the legislative auditor with firm dealings with area groups that provide care for those with mental and substance abuse.
Recently, the Jindal administration opted to change direction and move behavioral health services under the Medicaid private health insurance plans known as Bayou Health. While that transition occurs, the Magellan contract has been extended until Feb. 28, 2015, and the total contract cost increased to $544.8 million.
According to charging documents, Michelle Barnett served as a program manager in the state Department of Health and Hospitals Office of Behavioral Health overseeing the state’s behavioral health records system. The job involved ongoing data exchanges with Magellan. She was first employed in April 2011.
Her husband was hired by Magellan in July 2012 as a senior network business analyst. His job duties included analysis and production of reports in support of the Magellan provider network for the Office of Behavioral Health.
In October 2013, Michelle Barnett was requested by DHH to work on a proposal for a new statewide management organization, the role Magellan had been filling, the Ethics Board said. It was then that “Ms. Barnett disclosed that her husband, Tom Barnett, worked for Magellan,” the charge document states.
With the notification, DHH moved Barnett into another position that is not involved with the Magellan contract. She is now Medicaid program manager at a salary of $83,200 annually.