George C. Stokes, the former top administrator of the State Health Plan who was abruptly fired last week, challenged his removal in a letter released by his attorney on Friday. Stokes said the two legislative leaders who effectively fired him gave "invalid, inaccurate and misleading" statements about the plan's finances and failed to follow proper procedure in removing him from the position. "I know for certain that the State Health Plan was in no jeopardy whatsoever and there was absolutely no need for the precipitous action they took," Stokes said in the letter.
Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand and House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman caused Stokes to be fired by sending a letter to state Insurance Commissioner Jim Long. The two leaders said that they had received information showing that the plan's finances had swung from $50 million in the black to $65 million in the red. They said the change in the plan's fortunes could mean higher premiums. They also said that legislative staff had a difficult time getting information about the plan's finances. Rand said Friday that he stood by the reasons for Stokes' firing. Rand said the plan's deficit may be worse than expected and may need a financial boost from the state. "We're trying to see if we have sufficient resources to get to the end of the year," Rand said.
The plan serves nearly 650,000 state employees, teachers, retirees and their dependents. Stokes, 61, had been the executive administrator for three years. He made $167,872 a year. Stokes contends in the letter that his firing violated state law. He said Long, who informed Stokes of his dismissal, could remove him only after receiving advice from the executive committee of the Committee on Employee Hospital Medical Benefits. "To my knowledge, no such executive committee has existed and functioned during my tenure," Stokes said. He said his lawyer, James E. Ferguson II of Charlotte, is working with Long to try to rectify "the wrongs that have been done without going through the costly and cumbersome process of litigation." (Dan Kane, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 7/12/08).