LOS ANGELES—AIDS Healthcare Foundation is feeling its litigious oats once again. The aggressive organization run by Michael Weinstein has filed a lawsuit in L.A. Superior Court against Los Angeles County, Department of Public Health directors Dr. Jonathan Fielding and Mario Perez, and County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, alleging that the “three [county] officials falsely accused [AHF] of overbilling $1.7 million, to punish the group for its advocacy of the condoms-for-porn-actors law, and for blowing the whistle on county mismanagement of AIDS funding,” reported Courthouse News Service.
“Weinstein made similar claims against Los Angeles County in a federal lawsuit last December,” the news site added. “In July, the foundation asked a federal judge to enjoin the county from auditing it, claiming the audit would interfere with patient care. That request was denied on July 19.”
Not about to give up, AHF in this latest lawsuit uses the California Constitution and the California Whistleblower Act as the basis for its cause of action to accuse the county of not only retaliating against it by conducting "frequent and invasive" audits of the foundation, but also of misusing federal funds it receives under the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resource Emergency Act to then disburse to AIDS services throughout the county. According to Weinstein, the county abuses the process by “favoring health care providers who make campaign contributions to county officials.”
He mentions one such provider, Tarzana Treatment Center, as an example of county favoritism, claiming in the 45-page complaint, “Tarzana had less experience than AHF and other providers in the area at treating HIV/AIDS. However, many of the principals of Tarzana are significant campaign contributors to Yaroslavsky.”
The suit contains other similar allegations that lead Weinstein to believe that the county has it in for him, including a case in which AHF sued the country for having fast-tracked the approval of “a $75 million contract for a private pharmacy administrator called Ramsell.”
According to CNS, “The foundation sued the county in Superior Court for violating competitive bidding rules, and won a judgment invalidating the contract in June 2012—a move that angered county officials, according to the complaint.”
But the main reason Weinstein believes that the county is harassing him with audits is Measure B, the mandatory condom law, aka the Safer Sex in Adult Industry Act, which was approved by voters last year and has since been signed into law.
“Weinstein claims that as the foundation campaigned for Measure B in the November 2012 general election campaign,” reported CNS, county officials ‘ramped up their threats,’ demanding the foundation pay the $1.7 million within two weeks.”
It is seeking an injunction and general, compensatory, special and punitive damages.
In response to a request for comment, the Free Speech Coalition sent the following statement to AVN: "Michael Weinstein and AHF have a long history of litigation, and this case is just another example of AHF trying to bully local officials into enforcing Measure B barrier protection laws. The public was duped into voting for this unenforceable, unconstitutional law - hopefully no one will be fooled by the allegations made by Weinstein and AHF against the County."