Management company says it was fired for questioning clinic's finances, sues to recover payment

Kelly Holleran Nov. 10, 2009, 5:43am

A financial management consulting company claiming it was terminated after raising questions about a medical clinic's finances is suing the clinic for breach of contract to try to recover unpaid invoices.

Optimal Financial Management Co. says it was hired June 4 by Gulf Coast Health Center Inc. in Port Arthur to review the clinic's accounts.

According to a complaint filed Nov. 3 in Jefferson County District Court, Optimal claims it entered into a consulting agreement with Gulf Coast to review its records to make sure it was complying with generally accepted accounting principles and with the Public Health Service Act.

In addition, Optimal agreed to establish internal controls required for state and federal government recipients and to respond to a March 4 correspondence with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Optimal was to prepare and review monthly bank reconciliations and general journal adjusting entries, reconcile the general ledger and account balances, tie-in and trace balances to records, establish fixed asset records, prepare required audit support schedules and prepare financials for audit.

However the contract stated that the work product would not constitute an audit, nor would Optimal's service constitute a review of accounting records or accounting systems.

The clinic was to provide all necessary data including check copies, invoices, journals, internal financial statements and previous reports to regulatory agencies, specifically the Department of Health and Human Services, SET Regional Planning Commission and DHHS Medicare/Medicaid.

For its work, Optimal charged $225 per hour, plus $.585 per mile it traveled, according to the complaint. When employees worked on holidays and weekends, Optimal charged $275 per hour, the complaint says.

According to the suit, problems arose when Optimal came across what it claims are suspicious payments.

"Plaintiff would show that in the course of examining various financial records and procedures of Defendant, Plaintiff began to discover various suspect procedures and payments, the sum of which indicated possible negligence or wrongdoing on the part of the person who was then CEO and Chief Managing Officer of Defendant," the suit states.

"Plaintiff discovered a payment of approximately $100,000 during the period of 2005 and 2007 to a person employed at the direction of the CEO of the Defendant and there appeared to be evidence of some attempt to cover up said employment and the payment.

"After mentioning said irregularity and other irregularities to the CEO, Plaintiff was informed his services would no longer be desired."

Optimal claims it was informed its performance under the contract was terminated and that the company would no longer be allowed access to the necessary documents to complete its contractual duties.

So, on Aug. 29, Optimal billed Gulf Coast $22,208.30 and on Sept. 11, billed an additional $7,425.50, according to the complaint.

Although Optimal has received payment in the past from Gulf Coast, it received no money for its most recent services, the complaint says.

The plaintiff states it has become necessary to take legal action in order to enforce the contractual obligations and collect on an open account.

Optimal is seeking a judgment of $55,747.80, which includes attorney's fees, costs, pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief the court deems just.

Carl A. Parker of The Parker Law Firm in Port Arthur will be representing Optimal.

The case has been assigned to Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court.

Jefferson County District Court case number: E185-258.

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