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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Former Highmark CEO Kenneth Melani a Victim!?

     After Dr. Kenneth Melani punched-out the husband of his mistress, the married insurance executive lost his $4.3 million a year job as CEO of Pittsburgh's Highmark corporation. The physical confrontation in Oakmont, Pennsylvania on March 25, the punch heard around the state, was obviously behavior unbecoming the head of a giant corporation. (I'm going to stick my neck out here and speculate that very few physicians ever get into fist fights with anyone. A few have murdered their wives, but that's another story.) The highly publicized altercation, and the tawdry (but juicy) circumstances that led up to it, at the very least has caused the non-profit, Blue Cross company tremendous embarrassment. By any objective standard, Dr. Melani's prompt dismissal (executives are dismissed, professors are retrenched, and ordinary folks are fired) was the only appropriate corporate response.

     Melani's 28-year-old squeeze, Melissa Myler, began working for Highmark in October 2011 as a $40,000 a year sports marketing manager. A few weeks before her husband and her lover punched it out in Oakmont, the company's board of directors told the CEO that they would appreciate it if his mistress found work elsewhere. Dr. Melani denied having an affair with Myler. As a result, she did not resign. (As of this writing, she is still with the company, and planning a PGA golf event to be held at the Fox Chapel Country Club. I don't know about you, but I can see this woman on Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice.")

     On April 3, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, Jr. announced that if Dr. Melani completes some kind of counseling program (Anger management? Utilizing common sense? How to live in the real world?) the criminal charges against him will be dropped. (Really, does a former CEO need some counselor to tell him that having an affair with a married employee, then punching-out her husband, is unCEO-like behavior?) According to the prosecutor, Dr. Melani's preliminary hearing has been postponed.

Here Come the Lawyers

     High profile scandals involving big companies with deep pockets attract lawyers like a corpse draws flies. Dr. Melani has two attorneys: one to handle his Highmark termination, and the other to deal with his problems with the law. Sam Cordes, Melani's employment issues attorney, who also represents Melissa Myler, is no stranger to high profile firing cases. According to Cordes, "What Highmark did to these two people is wrong...."

     Regarding the board of directors' attempt to nudge the mistress out the door prior to the middle-aged slugfest in Oakmont, attorney Cordes is exploring the possibility of a sex discrimination, retaliation, or breach of contract suit. The lawyer has pointed out that getting rid of the woman was the corporation's first instinct. "The problem is that how she has been treated says a lot about the treatment of women," he said. (I would argue it says a lot about how much easier it is to dump a $40,000 a year nonessential employee than it is firing the CEO. Moreover, while sex is clearly an element in this case, I don't see the discrimination part. Remember, they ended up firing him.)

     According to an "executive coach" (they need coaching?) from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Dr. Melani was suffering from what they call "CEO's disease." Oh boy. And how do corporation leaders catch this illness? Well, according to the coach, they get it from being isolated from real life, and from hanging out too much with their suck-up yes-men. While I'm not an executive coach, I beg to differ. I think these guys are just sociopathic. (Here's an idea, maybe Highmark should cut out the middleman and replace Melani with an executive coach!)  

     Dr. Melani's criminal attorney, Robert Del Greco, Jr., has told reporters that his client is "upset and disappointed." But the lawyer didn't say who Melani is upset and disappointed with. The company? His mistress? His wife? The police? Whoever it is, I'm sure it's not with himself. That would be very unCEO-like.


  1. Jim,

    You can't make this stuff up. I see Ms. Myler having her own reality-based show in about a year. Dr. Melani will be on either Dr. Phil or Oprah crying and begging for forgiveness(along with his attorney and his executive coach). Highmark will wind-up paying a big settlement for both of these(which in turn will make higher premiums for all of us in Highmark).
    Do not foget the tell-all books and movie deals for ALL involved-Myler's husband too!

  2. Ken,

    I think you are on to something here. I think I'll skip the book and the movie, though.

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  4. Jim,

    Go to Google maps. Enter this address:

    1100 Stonegate Manor
    Cheswick, PA 15024

    Zoom in and take a good look at what are insurance premiums are buying for the Melani's. I see that they were putting an addition on the existing mansion in this photo. I wonder if it went on hold after the scandal! This place in person puts Hugh Heffners estate to shame. 90 foot long pool, beach entry, island, cave, waterfall, pool house, guest house, hot tub, fire places, fire pits, outdoor kitchens, man made waterfalls and streams throughout the property. Elaborate, driveways, landscaping and playgrounds. It makes me sick to think of the people that can't even afford health insurance and have died as a result, so that others can live like this on our high premiums.