Harbor-UCLA Managers Accused in Lawsuit of Widespread Theft An employee says he was harassed and attacked after trying to expose illegal purchases. By Susannah Rosenblatt, LA Times Staff Writer October 15, 2006 A federal lawsuit filed this week by an employee of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center alleges that managers there bought hundreds of high-end home improvement and personal items with hospital funds — including brass and crystal faucet fixtures, chef-quality knives, stopwatches and a 94-gallon fish pond — and that executives retaliated against him when he tried to expose the theft. The complaint contends that the purchases — some dating back to 1998 — were approved by hospital Chief Executive Tecla A. Mickoseff. It comes on the eve of a planned management transfer of the troubled Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center in South Los Angeles to Harbor, another county hospital near Torrance. King/Drew failed a critical inspection last month that will mean the loss of $200 million in federal funds by Dec. 1. Patrick Porch, a manager in the Harbor-UCLA machine department who is African American, complains in his suit of harassment and discrimination by Mickoseff and others after his 2003 whistle-blowing attempt. In the lawsuit, Porch alleges that a manager at one point threw a flammable liquid onto Porch in a darkened restroom, sending him to the emergency room. Hospital officials acknowledged Friday that some employees were released or disciplined for breaking purchasing rules and that financial safeguards were tightened as a result. But they denied discriminating against Porch. Porch's attorney, Anne Richardson, said the value of the items allegedly bought with county money was unclear and that Porch — now on leave from his post — continues to fear reprisals from co-workers. In response to Times questions about the lawsuit, Harbor officials provided a letter that Mickoseff sent recently to a reporter and producer from KNBC-TV Channel 4. Mickoseff wrote that inappropriate use of public money was "completely unacceptable" and that "to the extent that there existed any misuse of public funds, Harbor has remained committed to identifying and correcting any such matters." She also noted that the district attorney was investigating the theft allegations. Corrective steps, she continued, included releasing one employee under contract with the hospital and disciplining another; a third retired before disciplinary action was taken. The hospital also beefed up internal purchasing precautions so that multiple managers now sign off on purchases, and installed video cameras in areas where inventory had been lost. As for the allegations of discrimination and workplace retaliation, "we believe there's been no wrongdoing," said hospital spokeswoman Julie Rees. "We'll be working with our attorneys to address these allegations." The county counsel's office, which represents agencies like Harbor, had no record of Porch's suit as of Friday afternoon, officials said. The allegations against Harbor-UCLA do not undermine the proposed plan to overhaul King/Drew, said Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, whose district includes both hospitals. She said Porch and other related maintenance supervisors named in the suit "aren't involved particularly with the quality of care; they're involved really with operation of the facility." Burke cited nearly half a dozen county agencies, including the Office of Affirmative Action and the auditor- controller, that had investigated the matter; Porch had raised the issue with Burke's office several times. "Everything was done to remedy any concerns on the issues that he raised," Burke said.
Pages to are hidden for
"Federal Lawsuit"Please download to view full document