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Governor approves settlement of lawsuit alleging retaliation

July 26, 2011 |  2:50 pm

Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday approved a $600,000 settlement of a lawsuit by the former director of the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners who alleged that board members retaliated against her for assisting a criminal probe into alleged fraud by members of the profession.

Catherine Hayes sued the state, alleging that board members had tried to intimidate her into not cooperating with the criminal probe and wrongly fired her as executive director.

The settlement, in which the state does not admit any wrongdoing, was approved by the state Legislature and Brown after board members voiced concern that a similar lawsuit had resulted in a $2 million jury award against the panel.

"In light of all the facts, it was a just settlement," said Anthony Poidmore, an attorney for Hayes.

Those named in the lawsuit included Richard Tyler, who was board chairman at the time that Hayes was fired and was a close friend of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, at one time serving as his personal chiropractor before the governor appointed him to the panel. Also named in the lawsuit was board member Francesco Columbu, a chiropractor who was a two-time Mr. Olympia bodybuilder, as well as best man at the governor's wedding to Maria Shriver.

In 2006, Hayes said she began assisting a criminal investigation by the San Joaquin County district attorney’s office into whether several chiropractors engaged in insurance fraud involving a costly  chiropractic procedure in which patients' joints are adjusted while they are under anesthesia.

From the time she began helping prosecutors, board members "began a course of conduct of intimidation and threats" against Hayes "intended to deter her from giving truthful testimony in that or future actions and to punish plaintiff for giving truthful information and testimony to the prosecutors," the lawsuit alleged.

-- Patrick McGreevy