Republicans behaving badly: Here’s what’s the matter with Kansas (and America)

September 1, 2015

anne sam jeff

Sorry to break the news, Republicans. It’s not just Washington and it’s not just Democrats.

 

“If the board is engaged in political chicanery, that’s a big concern.” –Steve Kraske, Kansas City Star, Kansas Board of Healing Arts has closed case against Milton Wolf

 

It’s far beyond political chicanery. It’s abuse of power. And it’s a real concern.

Below is a summary of misconduct by Kansas state public officials including: (1) violations of state confidentiality laws, (2) lies about evidence, and (3) lying to the press. The pattern of misconduct is pervasive and is ongoing. It includes multiple officials at the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts extending from February 22, 2014 to August 19, 2015.

After a year and half, the Board finally dropped the case against Dr. Wolf without any findings of wrongdoing. Despite requests, the Board was never able to produce a copy of a complaint against Dr. Wolf or identify a single patient of Dr. Wolf’s who had complained about him to the Board.

Read and decide for yourself. So far, the actions and public statements described below are not disputed by the Board, its officials or the governor.

 

1. Board official Dan Riley violated Kansas confidentiality law KSA 65-2898a.

Kansas state law is unambiguous: Board inquiries “shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed by the board or its employees in a manner which identifies or enables identification of the person who is the subject.” Yet, on July 14, 2014, Board attorney Dan Riley alerted the Topeka Capital-Journal — just days before a pivotal election — that “a formal investigation” of Dr. Wolf was underway. The Board would go on to take a year and a half to finally close the case without any findings of wrongdoing by Dr. Wolf, long after the damage was already done by the suspiciously timed release.

The Topeka Capital-Journal correctly reported on July 22, 2014 that “board investigations are confidential, but this review was divulged in a letter [to the Topeka Capital-Journal].”

The Board has claimed that divulging the investigation to the press was necessary for conducting the investigation. This has several problems that the Board has not been able to explain: (1) The confidentiality law allows for only a few narrowly-defined exceptions but no such exception exists for conducting investigations. (2) Conducting the investigation did not require divulgence. [“Please give us information about John Doe” is perfectly legal and is sufficient without adding “because he is under formal investigation.” It is this divulgence to the press that was unnecessary and unlawful. (3) Why did the Board wait four months after initiating the inquiry to seek information from the Topeka Capital-Journal, especially considering the information  pertained to matters that had occurred four years prior? This military-like precision timing of the leak — just days before a pivotal election — simply doesn’t pass the smell test. And (4) Why was it necessary for the Board to seek this information at all considering one of its own Board members professed to already have knowledge of it (see below)?

How serious is this? Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Kathleen Kane is currently under indictment and faces loss of her law license for violating state confidentiality laws in order to smear a political rival, and the consequences were far less than the outcome of a United States Senate race.

 

2. Board member Anne Hodgdon lied about evidence in an active case and destroyed electronic records of public statements released under her official title “Board Member at Kansas State Board of Healing Arts” to hide her deception.

Anne Hodgdon cannot keep her story straight. That is because Anne Hodgdon is a self-contradicting serial liar. She is a major donor to Governor Sam Brownback and is his patronage appointee to the Board. Hodgdon is also a major donor to Senator Pat Roberts, who was the prime beneficiary of her misconduct.

In February 2014, Anne Hodgdon claimed to have knowledge of evidence in Dr. Wolf’s case and publicly stated her opinion of it…

anne lie 1

In June 2014, Hodgdon doubled down…

anne lie 2

Neither Hodgdon nor the Board has addressed why (1) if Hodgdon truly felt there was wrongdoing by Dr. Wolf in 2010, she failed to notify the Board, and (2) why the Board felt it necessary to conduct an investigation seeking information of which Hodgdon already claimed to be knowledgeable.

On July 2014,  once the inquiry was unlawfully divulged to the media, Hodgdon quickly deleted the social media public posts that contained the above statements, but not before screen captures were collected.

In August 2014, Hodgdon reversed course and issued a new public statement that inescapably contradicts her earlier statements…

anne lie 3

Over the course of several months, Hodgdon released literally scores and scores of statements — under her official title as “Board Member at Kansas State Board of Healing Arts” — pronouncing her own public judgment upon Dr. Wolf, some of which are not suitable for publication, all of which were accessible to the public and to her fellow Board members and the Board employees responsible for Dr. Wolf’s case who served beside or under her.

anne - what absolute scum this loathsome guy is

The Board has yet to condemn Hodgdon’s statements or declare that they do not meet the Board’s standards for confidentiality and for conduct of its officials.

 

3. Board member Anne Hodgdon violated Kansas confidentiality law KSA 65-2898a.

On August 8, 2015 — 11 days after the Board closed the case without any findings of wrongdoing — Anne Hodgdon publicly stated that there is more to the case than what has already been described publicly [Another false statement by Hodgdon. If she had truly recused herself from the case like the Board claims, how would she know?]. This is a clear violation of KSA 65-2898a. Any case that concludes with no findings of wrongdoing is protected by the confidentiality law. Board members and employees are prohibited from confirming its existence much less intimating that “full details of the truth” exist beyond what has been reported.

Hodgdon discussing case Aug 8, 2015

Like her many previous public missives, Hodgdon subsequently deleted the above statement to cover her tracks.

Anne Hodgdon has claimed that she should not be held accountable for her public statements because she would recuse herself from the case if it ever reached the Board member level. That’s nice but there is no provision in the Healing Arts Act whereby a recusal absolves a member or employee from abiding by confidentiality laws, pronouncing public judgment of a subject of an inquiry or lying to the public.

More details of Anne Hodgdon’s disturbing behavior and serial lying can be found here.

 

4. Board official Sheryl Snyder lied to the press about Dr. Wolf’s case.

Despite Dr. Wolf’s case being officially closed without any findings of wrongdoing, the pervasive pattern of misconduct by Board officials is ongoing and involves now a third Board official: paralegal Sheryl Snyder.

On August 19, 2015, a reporter from the Topeka Capital-Journal requested information from the Board in an effort to confirm Dr. Wolf’s public statement that he had been cleared of Sen. Pat Robert’s false charges of violating patient confidentiality. Snyder responded by email…

board snyder no documents exist

This generated the predictable headline from the Topeka Capital-Journal…

tcj version 1

On July 28, 2015 — a full 22 days before Snyder claimed that no document exists — Board official Jane Weiler sent that very documentation to Dr. Wolf’s attorney confirming that “this case is now closed” as was recently reported by the Kansas City Star.

The Board has not yet explained or retracted Snyder’s false statement to the press.

 

5. Board Executive Director Kathleen Lippert knowingly allowed the false statement about Dr. Wolf to be released to the press.

Look again at the email posted above that was sent from Board official Sheryl Snyder to the Topeka Capital-Journal containing the false statement. Receiving copies of that email were the Board’s Executive Director Kathleen Lippert and General Counsel Kelli Stevens … a full seven and a half hours before it was published. We know Lippert was in contract with the Journal during those seven and a half hours because she provided her own statement for publication. Lippert could have stopped publication of the false statement simply by telling the reporter it was false. Instead she chose to allow the false statement to be published, surely knowing it would be used to smear Dr. Wolf.

 

Conclusion

These actions and public statements are not disputed by the Board, its officials or the governor that oversees them. The only question is whether Governor Brownback will hold these public officials accountable for their misconduct or sweep it under the rug.

Covering for public officials’ misconduct — especially when it benefits politicians in power — isn’t just limited to Washington

 

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Steve Kraske is right: This is a big concern. Here are questions reporters might want to start asking:

1. Can the Board effectively deal with misconduct by its own members and employees? Will there be a public accounting? [Under current law there is surprisingly no legislative oversight of this critical agency.]

2. Does the Board condone or condemn the conduct and statements of Dan Riley, Anne Hodgdon and Sheryl Snyder? Considering Anne Hodgdon’s public statements were made under her official title, Kansans deserve to know if she was speaking on behalf of the Board.

3. Anne Hodgdon claimed to have knowledge of evidence in the case before the Board began its inquiry. Hodgdon is also a major donor to Senator Pat Roberts. It begs an obvious question: Was Senator Roberts aware of the false accusations before they were first published by the Topeka Capital-Journal in February 2014? If so, how?

4. Anne Hodgdon (falsely and unlawfully) claimed there’s more to this story than what has been reported, but if she had truly recused herself, as she and the Board claim, how would she know?

5. What are Governor Brownback’s standards for appointees to the Board of Healing Arts who will oversee your family’s healthcare and has Anne Hodgdon’s behavior met those standards?

6. When did Governor Brownback become aware of this misconduct by Kansas public officials and what actions did he take?

 

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