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Former USF exec slaps school with $600,000 lawsuit

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A former University of South Florida executive is suing the school for $600,000 alleging breach of contract.

That was the annual base salary for Dr. Jeffrey Lowenkron, who formerly served as the CEO of the USF Physicians Group. Lowenkron was hired in 2012 to head Tampa Bay’s most expansive physicians group.

Accroding to the Tampa Bay Business Journal the group employs 954 people, including 545 doctors in 35 offices across the region.

In addition to his more than half-million-dollar salary, Lowenkron’s contract allowed for an annual performance bonus of up to 45 percent. That would make his maximum annual salary with bonus $870,000.

Lowenkron alleges his contract provided severance pay for an entire year’s base salary if his reporting requirements changed. Lowenkron said he chose to leave USF Physicians Group last December because the group “isolated” him by making him report to those in less powerful positions and having employees who formerly reported to him report to someone else.

The lawsuit notes that USF knowingly signed an extended contract with Lowenkron in 2013, including the 52-week severance fully aware that state law only allows up to 20 weeks severance pay in such contracts.

He claims the group fraudulently and knowingly offered him the longer severance package and therefore is entitled to that regardless of state law.

It is unclear whether Lowenkron has received the equivalent of 20 weeks pay as severance or not.

One of Lowenkron’s undertakings while heading the USF Physicians Group was a fairly high-profile expansion into the Villages retirement community near Orlando. Lowenkron took on the task of opening a specialized healthcare facility including things like gynecological and orthopedic services in addition to basic medical treatment.

Lowenkron’s goal was to turn the community into “America’s healthiest hometown.” However, after failing to meet projected patient participation, USF estimated that it was on track to lose $2 million from the project and decided to walk away. They turned over some $5 million in assets to a private, for-profit company that now runs Villages Health.

Lowenkron is now Villages Health’s CEO. He took the job immediately after leaving USF Physicians Group amid controversy questioning his motives for jumping ship to head the failed practice as the lead of a for-profit group.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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