Imagine your dentist boss comes to you with a proposition:
Why don’t you help the board investigator do investigations for the board of dentistry? You can make some extra spending money by posing as a patient and presenting fake symptoms and false medical histories in hopes of gaining information and diagnosis that could be used against dentists in board hearings. The board can really use your help in putting the bad guys away.
What could go wrong, right? Your boss is a long-time member of the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry. He assures you this is done all the time. He even nicknames you “The Pink Panther” for your investigative efforts. Your thoughts go to all the extra money you will have for Christmas gifts this year.
A similar scenario happened with Karen Moorhead when she worked as a dental assistant for Dr. White Graves, a long-time board member, in Monroe. Moorhead testified that she worked “six or seven” undercover operations for board investigator Camp Morrison. She even testified to working undercover as an employee in an office that was under investigation by the LSBD.
The only problem is that no one told Ms. Moorhead what she was doing was against the law. Louisiana requires anyone getting paid to do undercover investigations have a valid private investigator’s license. Anyone caught doing this type of work without one is in violation of Louisiana criminal law, subjecting the offender for fines of up to $10,000 and up to a year in jail.
It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to commit any of the following acts:
(1) Provide contract or private investigator service without possessing a valid license.
(2) Employ an individual to perform the duties of a private investigator who is not the holder of a valid registration card.
Ms. Moorhead has found herself a defendant in an ongoing civil trial since 2011 because of this highly questionable and unethical, if not illegal, activity. Instead of hiring an independent attorney, she relied on the attorney provided by the board of dentistry, the very organization that got her in trouble in the first place. In fact, the board had the legislature change the law in order to cover her defense. She now claims attorney-client privilege with the Louisiana Attorney General’s office, and claims insurance coverage underwritten for state civil service employees. Never mind that Moorhead was an independent contractor doing work for a board contractor. Morrison’s contract specifically required him to hold an errors and omissions (E&O) insurance policy for such purposes that indemnifies the state against his actions. One former board member contends that the LSBD has spent over $500k on this suit. (Any state employee who is the subject of a civil lawsuit for actions taken in the scope of his or her employment is entitled to legal representation provided at the state’s expense. In the case of criminal prosecution for job-related actions, the employee may retain legal counsel of the employee’s choice and is entitled to have those legal costs reimbursed in the event of an acquittal. Moorhead, as a contractor, should not be entitled to legal representation provided by the state.)
More troubling, however, is the advice that her attorney has given her. The attorney Professional Rules of Conduct prohibit representing multiple clients when a conflict of interest exists between them. Barbara Melton, law partner to infamous Jimmy Faircloth, is a contract attorney for the board of dentistry—and she is defending both board investigator Camp Morrison and Moorhead at the same time. According to some legal analysts, that’s a major conundrum. One legal expert laid it out like this, “It’s apparent that Moorhead and Morrison may not share the same best interests. If I was hired to do a completely illegal job and was told that it was legal by supposedly reputable people and then found myself sued over it that would be a problem. I wouldn’t hesitate to sue the investigator, the board of dentistry, and possibly the boss that suggested the employment and got me into this mess in the first place.”
However, that’s not the advice that Melton seems to have given her. How could she recommend suing the board of dentistry and Morrison, who are both her clients? That recommendation should be off the table. Because of this conflict and lack of sound advice, Moorhead could find her troubles just beginning.
Several dentists have come together and are planning to file a civil class action suit against the Board of Dentistry and its agents. Moorhead’s involvement in “six or seven” cases, makes her the glue that ties this class action together. Moorhead may also have perjured herself in at least one deposition and during a board hearing. Finally, a recent affidavit from a Kenner dentist and Camp Morrison’s own billing records have Moorhead working undercover in an office that the board was investigating.
Although Moorhead originally bragged about working in this office, her story has changed and she remembers seeking but never being offered the job. This stands in stark contrast to the affidavit and billing records in hand. It’s possible that Moorhead may now risk jail time for perjury and continued ligation from multiple sources. She may have also committed tax fraud by not properly listing the income from these undercover jobs. Many believe the trouble Moorhead may be facing stems from the questionable legal advice she has been given. Meanwhile, the board attorney Barbara Melton has never missed a paycheck. She continues to represent the board of dentistry as a contract attorney.
Moorhead may want to check on her legal options, which some insist should include possibly adding her attorney to the list of people to sue. Moorhead certainly doesn’t appear to be innocent of the claims against her. But instead of stopping and ceasing to dig, her attorney appears to have helped her dig the hole deeper. It now appears to be one which she may not be able to escape.
The question must now be where the Attorney General’s office is in all this mess.
Buddy Caldwell is quick to issue press releases about child porn arrests, consumer fraud and CNSI. But he has been shamefully silent on the issue of going after offending power-mad, ego-driven Board of Dentistry members. These members have repeatedly demonstrated their intent to persecute dentists not in response to legitimate complaints but pursuant to board-initiated complaints generated by investigators and legal counsel. There is more than ample evidence to show that the board is set not on cleaning up the industry but in extracting hundreds of thousands of dollars from dentists denied the opportunity to properly defend themselves before a kangaroo court comprised of the same board members who bring the charges.
And while the attorney general’s job is to represent state agencies, he could be doing the board a service by offering his counsel to refrain from tromping on dentists’ due process rights. After all, should a class action lawsuit ensue, it’s going to cost the state a boatload of money to defend—and to pay any adverse judgment if that is the result. For no other reason than preventive maintenance, Caldwell should be offering his advice.
What has transpired thus far comes nowhere near the concept of due process. An attorney general committed to doing the job he was elected would have addressed this glaring problem long ago.