Passages Malibu Ordered to Pay Up

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Passages Malibu

Passages Malibu, the extensive addiction treatment facility sprawling across the Sycamore Canyon neighborhood of Malibu, was dealt a $1.8 million blow in LA Superior Court this week as a decision came down against them in a case that’s been working its way through the system for nearly 18 months. 

Passages, founded and operated by father-son multimillionaire duo Chris and Pax Prentiss, had a jury verdict come down in favor of former employee Cynthia Begazo to the tune of $1,829,160. The verdict in Begazo’s favor found that she, a former human resources director for Passages, had been wrongfully terminated from her position after three months of employment at Passages Malibu in 2015.

According to information provided to The Malibu Times by the office of Begazo’s attorney, Carney Shegerian of Shegerian & Associates, Inc., Begazo claimed she was a whistleblower and had been retaliated against for shedding light on poor practices at the center, atop claims she was discriminated against due to her disability, including history of leukemia. 

Begazo’s complaint stated that in April 2015, during her second month of employment, a male patient was found deceased in a room, under what she considered unusual circumstances. Despite these circumstances, Begazo said, her supervisors declined to report anything about the death to the police. Furthermore, she claimed, upon reviewing Passages’ employee files, she found the nurse on duty the evening of the death had not been properly trained. She then brought the information to Chief Operating Officer Marina Mahoney, whom she claimed requested she “fix” the files.

“Begazo said she refused to change the files because that would be illegal and that the files were going to remain as they were on the date of the incident,” a release from Shegerian & Associates said. “Shortly thereafter, Begazo claimed her supervisor stopped talking to her, excluded her from employee-related meetings, and sent other employees to continue projects she was working on.

“On May 6, 2015, Begazo was terminated from her employment,” the statement continued. “During trial, it was revealed that the Chief Operating Officer also demanded another employee to ‘fix’ the employee files after Begazo’s termination.”

According to information published by the City News Service, at the trial, Pax Prentiss, CEO of Passages, told a different story.

Pax told the jury Begazo did not follow his orders to meet soon after she was hired with the managers at other Passages centers, did not put in the extra time she needed to get the department up and running and failed to assist in recruiting.

“She didn’t meet these expectations,” Pax said.

Pax and Chris Prentiss did not respond to several requests for comment by The Malibu Times.

A letter to the editor defending Passages was delivered to The Malibu Times on Tuesday. The letter submission claimed it was sent by Mahoney, though the identity of the sender could not be verified without a doubt by the time The Malibu Times went to print.

In the letter, the writer claims Begazo “spread rumors that she could win any lawsuit because she knows the law. She harassed the HR assistant until she quit. It’s unbelievable how she fooled the entire jury and system and won 1.8 million.”

The writer added: “I am a good, honest and ethical person and these people have created a monster out of me.”

The full text of the letter was printed as a Letter to the Editor in the March 9 print edition of The Malibu Times.