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Detroit — Wayne County Executive Warren Evans wants the board of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority to halt the hiring of its new director.

In a letter to the chairman of the Mental Health Authority sent Thursday, Evans voiced “serious concerns” about Joy Calloway leading the county’s Mental Health Authority because of questions about an ongoing investigation into overbilling by her current employer. He asked the board to “cease all further efforts to hire Ms. Calloway and reopen the candidate search for a new director.”

Calloway has been CEO of New Center Community Mental Health Services since 2013, and in the letter to chairman Herbert Smitherman Jr., Evans said that organization has significantly overbilled the county and that an audit is still in process. 

“To hire Ms. Calloway as the Director of DWMHA under these circumstances is careless, at best,” Evans wrote. “In addition to the billing concerns, it could potentially undermine her credibility and that of the DWMHA from the start of her tenure.”

Evans initially sent letters to the health authority on Nov. 15, requesting that the board postpone its vote on a new CEO until his questions about the process were answered. He sent another letter Nov. 22 saying there “is an inherent conflict of interest in hiring (Calloway) who previously led New Center while this investigation remains open.” 

A state health department audit using a 5 percent sampling of New Center’s billing found $95,000 in overbilling; the audit suggested overbilling could be as much as $1.9 million, according to documents obtained by The Detroit News.

Calloway was set to replace CEO Tom Watkins, who resigned after three years in the position. Chairman Smitherman wrote back to Evans on Monday saying that a national candidate search started in May yielded more than 100 candidates; he said they interviewed the top five.

The board had initially selected another candidate who declined to move forward in the process. The board then picked Calloway, who was described by one of the panelists as having “a unique Detroit-based experience with a passion and motivation to lead,” according to Smitherman’s letter.

Evans wrote back that the medical health authority, an independent agency, has an obligation to taxpayers and the 80,000 residents it serves to recoup the money overbilled by New Center. 

“Apparently, the DWMHA agreed to accept only $95,000 to settle the entire overbilling issue,” Thursday’s letter said.

As of Friday afternoon, the executive’s office had not received a response from the medical authority board. 

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

 

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