By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
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"That, to me, made my blood boil," Tillman says. "Here, to me, is a man standing at the peak of a major organization . . . who could stoop so low as to personally attack a person. And this person wants to tell me to consider him fair? That one pivotal statement made me reach back and reopen the files. . . . That shows the caliber of man I'm dealing with."
Tillman now says he'll be watching Johnston's law firm in the future.
Kahlstorf, of course, couldn't turn the other cheek. He faxed Adornetto's letter--which was line-numbered, as some legal documents are--back to AHCCCS, and to legislators as well. He included a cover sheet, which read, "IS THIS ANY WAY TO RUIN--ER--RUN A MEDICAID AGENCY? IF JOHN AND CHUCK MUST WASTE OUR TIME AND MONEY IN THIS MANNER, THEY MIGHT AS WELL JUST CITE WHATEVER STATE OR FEDERAL LAWS THEY BELIEVE GIVE THEM THE AUTHORITY TO MAKE THEIR RIDICULIOUS [sic] DEMANDS. UNLESS, OF COURSE, THEY HAVE NO SUCH AUTHORITY. IN ANY CASE, PROCEED WITH CAUTION. CHUCK HAS MASTERED THE WORD PROCESSOR, AND HIS USE OF LINE NUMBERS IS REEEEEEEALLLY SCARY."
Kahlstorf also shot back a letter to Logan Johnston after the "cyberblob" taunt.
"Your apparent concern that process servers are closing in [on Kahlstorf] seems misplaced. I doubt very much that authorities examining your Affirmative Action record will even need a subpoena to obtain contract compliance information relating to your profitable, federally-financed activities," Kahlstorf writes.
Kahlstorf defends his replies, even as he insists there's nothing personal about them.
"Am I supposed to be afraid because a manager at AHCCCS has mastered Windows? I'm supposed to shit myself now because Charlie's turned on line-numbering? No," Kahlstorf says. "Believe me, if we wanted to go after people personally, diary entries are the least of their worries, but we just don't do that."
When they attack each other, Kahlstorf and AHCCCS make the same mistake: They confuse the personal and the political.
Attacking Kahlstorf's credibility won't change the findings of federal investigators, a point Lopez concedes.
"You know, when you look at a program this big, with $2 billion, you're bound to find something," he explains. "Certainly, what you're going to find are errors . . . but I cannot believe there is fraud going on. I won't accept that. But I think that they will find something. They've got to find something. They've spent a lot of time on this."
And while AHCCCS officials are eager to question Kahlstorf's credibility, the agency is much quieter when it comes to the two other prominent whistle-blowers, Janssen and Schoonover. Even though their claims were dismissed by personnel boards, there's no denying the two were terminated after they made public claims of fraud and abuse at AHCCCS. Nor can AHCCCS comfortably state today, as it once did, that the agency's problems are just media hype.
"The issues are there," Lopez admits. "This agency is not trying to diminish the fact that there are issues here. . . . Dead people came up in the system, we corrected, we reconciled, that's it."
Even Lopez concedes it's unlikely there would have been any scrutiny of those problems without Kahlstorf. When asked if AHCCCS staffers would have alerted anyone to the presence of dead recipients on the rolls if they found out about it themselves, Lopez asks a rhetorical question back:
"You mean, do a press release on our own?"
Lopez's laughter suggests that no matter what else might be said of Greg Kahlstorf, without him, the public might never have known of some serious problems at AHCCCS--and neither would have federal investigators.
But Kahlstorf makes the same mistake when he assumes he's the only one with a handle on the truth. In speaking with New Times, Kahlstorf even hints that questioning his credibility could jeopardize the federal inquiry.
If the federal investigation doesn't find anything, Kahlstorf says he's willing to live with that.
"We all started this with the understanding that the highest authority is the federal government," he says. "If after two and a half years, if they're actually able to determine nothing's wrong here, I guess we'll have to accept that."
But he adds, "I think we've already had an important and undeniable effect on AHCCCS. I don't think that they will ever do business the way they did before."
To Kahlstorf, that's all that should matter--not his own credibility, not the public money that's been spent in the back-and-forth accusations and not the charges he's made that have turned out to be wrong.
"It's very possible that there may be conflicts of interest up the ass, as far as me being a journalist covering the story, but I do know this," he argues. "No one in the state of Arizona is better equipped to give you independent information about AHCCCS than AHCCCSWatch is.