Former CMS administrator resigns from Centene board after governance 'fell egregiously short'

A former Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator has resigned from the Centene board, citing her frustrations with its governance process.

Leslie Norwalk, appointed to the board just over three months ago, issued notice of her immediate resignation last Monday, April 11, after coming to an impasse with leadership about the board’s direction, according to her resignation letter.

Her departure comes less than a month after Centene named its new CEO, Sarah London, to succeed longtime leader Michael Neidorff.

In her resignation letter, Norwalk referenced a “recent important decision” made by the board in which the governance process “fell egregiously short of what I and a number of other board members considered appropriate for making an informed decision.”

She took issue with what she deemed a lack of “adequate” information or time to discuss the issue at hand before voting, according to the letter.

Neither Norwalk nor Centene provided further insight into the board decision at hand.

Norwalk joined the Centene board in January, having previously served on the board of directors at Magellan Health, which the insurer acquired at the beginning of the year for $2.2 billion. 

Centene has instituted several changes to its board in recent months, including appointing five new board members, altering committee chair positions and separating the roles for CEO and chairman, among other adjustments.

Norwalk said she feels the board “needs to refresh its approach to leadership,” going on to imply her dissatisfaction with one or more of the board leadership appointments.

“Based on my discussions with current leadership, however, I am not confident that meaningful changes will be made timely, if at all,” she wrote.

Centene’s acknowledgment of Norwalk’s resignation, as well as her letter, were included in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing issued Friday, in which the company said it was “committed to the continued strengthening” of its board governance process.

Centene added that “the entire board is united in its support for the company’s new CEO, Sarah London, and her highly experienced, effective leadership team.”

London ascended to the role from her previous position as vice chairman of the board of directors.

Neidorff died earlier this month at age 79, just months after announcing his plans to retire from the insurance company after a 25-year tenure.

James Dallas has been appointed acting chairman of the Centene board.