Los Angeles County AIDS Office Director Demoted Following Investigation of Role in Fundraising for Mayoral Candidate
Los Angeles County Department of Health Services officials on Monday announced that the director of the county Office of AIDS Programs and Policy has been removed from his position but remains a county employee, the Los Angeles Times reports. Officials declined to explain the reason for removing Charles Henry as director of the program, which distributes $82.5 million annually in government funding for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programs. However, John Schunhoff, chief of operations at the department and Henry's supervisor, said Henry's removal came after last week's completion of a county investigation into fundraising activities conducted by Henry, according to the Times (Leonard, Los Angeles Times, 5/17). The county DHS in March announced that they were investigating if Henry used county resources while soliciting contributions from contractors for Los Angeles City Council Member Antonio Villaraigosa's mayoral campaign and whether Henry's efforts constituted a conflict of interest. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich asked the county auditor to join the investigation and conduct an audit of all AIDS contracts established in the previous four years to determine if the county had been billed correctly (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/10).
Schunhoff declined to make the results of the investigation public, but a preliminary investigation in March found that Henry had solicited campaign contributions for Villaraigosa from groups that receive funds from the county AIDS office, according to the Times. County investigators also found a fundraising flier for a Villaraigosa campaign event on Henry's office computer, despite the fact that county officials are prohibited from campaigning at work or using county resources to do so, according to a March 7 memo to the county Board of Supervisors from an attorney involved in the investigation. Henry's attorney, Winston Kevin McKesson, said neither he nor Henry was given the results of the county's investigation and Henry was not told why he was demoted. McKesson said Henry did "nothing wrong" in working for Villaraigosa's campaign, adding, "Everything he did was open, obvious and above board. He built a brick wall between his position in the county and his volunteer efforts for Villaraigosa," the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 5/17).
Future for Henry, AIDS Office
Henry, who had served as director of the county AIDS office for seven years, has been placed on "special assignment" with the county and still will receive his pending annual pay of $113,004, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. Schunhoff declined to say what the details of Henry's new assignment are or how long he will have the role, according to the Daily News. An interim director to head the office will be named shortly, and a national search will be conducted for a permanent director, the Daily News reports (Anderson, Los Angles Daily News, 5/17).