Even as the Office of Inspector General conducts its ongoing investigation of the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry, the board’s unorthodox practices have come to the attention of the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Dental Education Association (ADEA).
At the same time, LouisianaVoice has learned that all but two members of the Board of Dentistry, including its executive director, may also have a problem with state ethics.
LouisianaVoice learned last Tuesday (March 21) that the Office of Inspector General was conducting an investigation into substantial fines levied against dentists for minor offenses. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/03/21/louisianavoice-learns-of-simultaneous-federal-and-state-investigations-of-lsta-la-state-board-of-dentistry/
On Friday, we obtained a copy of a Feb. 26, 2016, LETTER letter from the two national associations to State Dentistry Board President Dr. Russell Mayer of Hammond. The letter expressed a “high level of concern” of the ADA, its Licensure Task Force, the Council on Dental Education and Licensure, and the American Dental Education Association (ADEA).
The upshot of the letter appears to be a subtle message for the Louisiana board to cease in its efforts to bar competition from out-of-state dentists.
That concern is “with regard to the status of licensure for dentists in the U.S., particularly for dentists attempting to relocate to other states. The letter said that the Louisiana board engages “in conduct that restricts, rather enhances, that portability.”
The three-page letter was signed by Carol Gomez Summerhays, ADA President; Gary L. Roberts, President-elect; Gary E. Jeffers, Chair, ADA Licensure Task Force; Daniel J. Gesek, Jr., Chair, Council on Dental Education and Licensure; Huw F. Thomas, Dean of Tufts University’s School of Dental Medicine and Chair of the ADEA Board of Directors; Cecile A. Feldman, Dean of Dental Medicine, Rutgers University, Chair-elect of the ADEA Board of Directors, and Lily T. Garcia, University of Iowa College of Dentistry Associate Dean for Education and Immediate Past Chair of the ADEA Board of Directors.
The ADEA Allied Dental Program Directors’ Conference is scheduled to be held in New Orleans June 4-7, which makes the timing of the letter especially significant.
In addition to Dr. Mayer, copies of the letter were sent to Arthur Hickham, Jr., Executive Director of the State Board of Dentistry; Dr. Henry Gremillion, Dean, LSU School of Dentistry; Dr. L. King Scott, President of the Louisiana Dental Association; Ward Blackwell, Executive Director, Louisiana Dental Association; Dr. Raymond A. Cohlmia, 12th District ADA Trustee; Dr. Kathleen O’Loughlin, ADA Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, and Dr. Richard Valachovic, ADEA President and CEO.
The letter pointed out that there are five clinical test administration agencies for dentistry:
- The Commission on Dental Competency Assessments;
- Central Regional Dental Testing Service, Inc.;
- Council of Interstate Testing Agencies, Inc.;
- The Southern Regional Testing Agency, Inc.;
- The Western Regional Examining Board.
“The ADA…has come to the conclusion that these examinations adhere to a common set of core design and content requirements that renders them conceptually comparable,” the letter said. “It has been a longstanding policy of the ADA that it represents unnecessary and meaningless duplication to require a candidate seeking licensure in different states to demonstrate his or her theoretical knowledge and clinical skill on separate examinations for each jurisdiction, especially when it is clear that the core requirements, administration, and outcomes are virtually indistinguishable between each examination,” it said.
“It is our understanding that your state affirmatively elects not to accept the examination results from all of these test administration agencies. The decision of your board… to accept the test results of only a select number of clinical test administration agencies appears highly arbitrary. Moreover, those decisions have an arguably anticompetitive effect in restricting the mobility of dentists wishing to move from one state to another.”
“…We respectfully request that your board pursue the necessary steps to accept successful completion of all of the clinical test administration agency examinations for dental licensure in your state,” the letter said. “Recognizing that the dental board’s primary mission is protecting the public in your state, we believe that the board has the authority and autonomy to pursue this change. It will increase portability of dental professionals and access to quality dental care for patients.”
The letter is in addition to the controversy swirling around the board’s policy of forcing dentists to pay the costs of investigating them in addition to absurd monetary penalties that can run into six figures.
The most outrageous example is the board’s forcing a surgeon into bankruptcy because the oral surgeon, who “never filled a tooth, made a denture, made a crown, cleaned teeth, restored a tooth, or anything that anyone would consider a dental practice, did not have an anesthesia permit from the board.
The doctor, Randal Wilk, whose patients were mostly cancer victims, was told by the board that he could sign a consent decree and pay the board $5,000 and the matter would be resolved. When Wilk refused to pay the $5,000, he was told the board could levy fines of more than $100,000—a tactic that can be considered nothing other than extortion.
But a regulation that had been in place since 2012 could be the eventual undoing of board members.
Debora Grier, Executive Secretary of the Louisiana Board of Ethics, said ethics training became a requirement for employees, contractors and board and commission members. Section VII of the Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics says, “Each public servant shall receive a minimum of one hour of education and training on the Code of Ethics during each year of his public employment or term of office.”
A public employee “means anyone, whether compensated or not, who is…appointed by elected official to a position to serve the government or government agency” or who is “engaged in the performance of a governmental function.”
The one-hour training consists of an online course accessed through the Ethics Board’s Web page and the Web page also keeps records of those who have taken the course in a timely manner and there is where several board members appear to have a real problem.
Beginning with former board investigator Camp Morrison who was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for drumming up charges against dentists, never took a single ethics course.
Others either on the board or employed by the board for whom there is no record of their ever having taken the ethics course as required include Dr. Isaac House of Haughton, Dr. Leonard Breda, III, of Lake Charles, Board Vice President Dr. Claudia Cavallino of Metairie, Dr. Mohammad Zadeh of Chalmette, Dr. James Hargrove of Baton Rouge, and Dr. Robert Foret of Thibodaux.
Moreover, there were several others who have taken the ethics training only one of the required years. Those include Dr. Wilton Guillory, Jr., of Alexandria (2014), Dr. Ronald Marks of Alexandria (2014), Dr. Jerome Smith of Lafayette (2013), Dr. Richard Willis of Monroe (2014), and the board’s Executive Director, Arthur Hickham (2014).
If that were not enough, Board President Dr. Russell Mayer of Hammond took the course in 2013 and 2014, but did not in 2015
So now we have a rogue board that:
- Contracted with a private investigator whose sole responsibility was to hang some unsuspecting dentist out to dry for some obscure infraction;
- Served as accuser, prosecutor, and judge in a special kangaroo court with the outcome of cases already predetermined;
- Extorted backbreaking fines from dentists who balked at the lower fines by threatening to “find” other offenses;
- Forced dentists to pay for the board’s and Camp’s investigations against them;
- Maintained office suites in an expensive office building on Canal Street in the heart of the New Orleans Central Business District—and allowed non-state employee Morrison to enjoy a rent-free office in those suites.
And, while protecting the good citizens of Louisiana from those law breaking dentists who dared use lettering in their advertisements larger than the board permitted, somehow managed to look the other way as eight of its board members to neglect taking the required annual one-hour ethics course and six others, including its executive director to get by with taking the course only once.
Just another example of Louisiana politics at its finest, folks.
As our late friend C.B. Forgotston was so fond of saying, you can’t make this stuff up.