Winston-Salem Journal’s Richard Craver reports Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions is suing the state of North Carolina to continue paying CEO Richard Topping a salary of more than $600,000:

Cardinal, the largest of North Carolina’s seven behavioral health managed care organizations, claims it is not subject to state personnel statutes even though it receives annual state and federal Medicaid funding. Those amounts were $587 million for federal and $88 million for state in fiscal 2015-16.

….Cardinal argues in its complaint that not being allowed to pay Topping up to $635,000 in annual salary could convince him to resign, thereby putting Cardinal “at a significant market disadvantage” recruiting a top executive in the Mecklenburg County business market.

“This would result in immediate and irreparable harm to Cardinal Innovations and reduce the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission,” Cardinal said.

The lawsuit follows calls by a bipartisan group of legislators for for N.C. Health Secretary Mandy Cohen to terminate Cardinal’s Medicaid contracts:

“The public’s trust” in Cardinal “has been hit with a nuclear blast,” said state Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth.

“These golden parachutes are unheard of for any state entity,” said state Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, an expert on state health-care issues.

Cardinal “has been in your face to the General Assembly that we don’t care what you think, and we’re going to use your funds as we see fit even if it seems exorbitant,” said state Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union, the most vocal legislative critic of Topping and Cardinal.

Legislators questions follow a DHHS review questioning Cardinal’s financial status, especially executive salaries and severance packages.