Reporting from Sacramento -- The former executive director of the state Board of Chiropractic Examiners will receive $600,000 to settle a claim that she was harassed and fired for helping prosecutors investigate fraud in the industry.
Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a bill authorizing the settlement, under which the state did not admit any wrongdoing.
Catherine Hayes' lawsuit alleged that board members tried to intimidate her into not cooperating with a 2006 probe by the San Joaquin County district attorney's office into whether several chiropractors had engaged in insurance fraud. Eventually, she said, they retaliated by firing her.
Hayes' allegations were an embarrassment to the administration of then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Among those she accused of retaliation was Richard Tyler, the board chairman and a friend of Schwarzenegger who at one time served as his personal chiropractor. Also named in the suit was board member Francesco Columbu, a chiropractor and two-time Mr. Olympia bodybuilder — as well as the best man at the governor's wedding to Maria Shriver.
Hayes' lawsuit alleged that the former governor's friends ran the board with more interest in protecting the chiropractic profession than consumers.
"In light of all the facts, it was a just settlement," said Anthony Poidmore, an attorney for Hayes.
Board members have denied the allegations.
"We're very pleased that this was settled," Executive Officer Robert Puleo said Tuesday, "and we look forward to moving forward on the board's consumer protection mission."
The Legislature approved the Hayes settlement after board members voiced concern that a similar lawsuit had resulted in a big jury award.
In that case, former employee Carole Arbuckle was awarded $1.25 million in damages and $800,000 in legal fees after a jury found that the board's administrators in 2001 had retaliated against her for reporting that a board member had allowed a chiropractic license to lapse.
Brown signed 11 other bills Tuesday, including a measure banning the sale of animals on street corners in hopes of reducing the number of puppy mills in California. SB 917 by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) also sets tougher penalties for those convicted of animal abuse or cruelty, allowing a maximum jail sentence of one year in cruelty cases and a fine of up to $20,000.
The governor also signed into law a measure that designates any building used for dog-fighting or cockfighting to be a public nuisance, which makes it easier to evict the tenant. SB 426 is by Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello).