Mental health agency denies lavish spending in audit

RALEIGH (AP) - North Carolina's auditor says a large managed care mental health agency spent excessively on salaries for top executives, conferences and Christmas parties.

State Auditor Beth Wood released the review Thursday, saying Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions made $1.2 million in unauthorized salary payments to CEOs since 2014.

Wood also accuses Cardinal of unreasonable spending on board retreats, meetings and travel totaling more than $250,000. The audit says over $18,000 was spent on a Christmas party.

Cardinal vehemently disagreed with the findings, writing in its response that it followed the law and that the CEO pay was allowed under its annual salary plan accepted by state officials.

Cardinal manages and monitors services for the mentally ill, substance abusers and people with developmental disabilities in 20 counties, potentially covering 850,000 people.

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