CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Latest on North Carolina health officials taking legal action after assuming control of a regional mental health care agency (all times local):

5:20 p.m.

The ousted chief executive of a North Carolina regional mental health agency says state health officials weren’t justified taking control of agency operations earlier this week and sought a court order after the fact to cover their tracks.

Richard Topping spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday, after a judge issued an order preventing him and former board members from interfering with Department of Health and Human Services workers now overseeing Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions.

The department took over Cardinal Innovations following recent state audits chronicling what they called excessive spending and severance packages. Topping called the agency’s administrative spending reasonable. The audits also highlighted Topping’s large salary.

Topping says the conflict between Cardinal and DHHS centers on who controls Medicaid money left over after patient treatments and efficiencies. He says it’s up to the former board to decide whether to challenge the takeover in court.

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3:40 p.m.

A court has told the former CEO and ousted board members of North Carolina’s largest regional mental health care agency to stay clear of the finances of Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions since state officials have taken it over.

A Mecklenburg County judge signed an order Wednesday preventing ex-chief executive Richard Topping and the former board from interfering with actions by the Department of Health and Human Services for 10 days. DHHS also wants something more permanent.

The department took charge temporarily of Cardinal Innovations on Monday following recent audits chronicling what they called excessive spending, executive pay and severance packages.

A state attorney provided to the judge what was described as emails between Topping and the previous board chairwoman suggesting a plan afoot to block state access to Cardinal’s cash.

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