LOS ANGELES – The CEO for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. testified Monday that he was surprised an executive with the company for nearly 30 years quit in 2017 and denied the former manager was forced to resign after coming forward with corruption allegations.
The plaintiff, 54-year-old Cesar Villalpando, maintains in his Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit that conditions became so intolerable after he reported alleged wrongdoing in the upper levels of the company that he had to leave the job that paid him $1.2 million annually in salary and benefits. After coming forward, Villalpando was harassed, isolated and bullied by management, he alleges.
“He was in a job with great responsibilities and he was part of the team,” Kaiser CEO Bernard Tyson told a jury hearing trial of Villalpando’s suit.
Villalpando filed his lawsuit in December 2017, naming Kaiser, Tyson, Kaiser CFO Kathy Lancaster and Group President Gregory Adams. Lancaster, Villalpando’s former boss, and Adams testified last week.
Kaiser’s lawyers have denied any wrongdoing on the part of the defendants and state in their court papers there is no evidence that the plaintiff was subjected to unbearable conditions. They say he received frequent promotions while at Kaiser.
Villalpando worked for Kaiser for more than 29 years before departing in July 2017, his suit states. At the time of his resignation, he held the position of senior vice president for enterprise shared services.
He alleges in his lawsuit that Kaiser provides prescription eyeglasses and hearing aids to insurance customers in a way that defrauded both them and Medicare of hundreds of millions of dollars because of a lack of bidding processes that would make the devices more affordable. As a result, those insured by Kaiser pay far more for eyewear and hearing aids, the suit states.
But in his testimony, Tyson said he believed Villalpando was “in over his head” on the job and was not doing the work he needed to become successful. He said he was not concerned about finding a replacement for the plaintiff when he left, saying it was the type of job that would attract many qualified applicants.
Cross-examined earlier in the day by Kaiser attorney Nancy Pritikin, Villalpando said he didn’t put any of his concerns in writing because Kaiser management discouraged him from documenting it in that way. He said his bosses believed someone could find the writings later and do harm to the company.
He said he may have written notes to himself about his allegations, but he left them with the organization when he resigned.
Villalpando said he bought his glasses at Costco rather than through Kaiser because they were less expensive at the warehouse chain.