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A Baton Rouge physical therapist has been formally charged with inappropriate touching of female patients and inappropriate comments about their bodies, but the bill of information from the East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s office might never have been submitted had it not been for the dogged pursuit of one woman who refused to allow her complaints to be ignored despite the best efforts of the DA’s office and East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s investigators to do just that.

Physical therapist Philippe Veeters, doing business as Dutch Physical Therapy, was first arrested last February on the basis of complaints by several of his female patients, but East Baton Rouge Parish DA Hillar Moore didn’t get around to submitting a bill of information against Veeters until Nov. 1.

The woman, who requested that her identity not be revealed, says she was assaulted by Veeters on June 7, 2018, said, “After dealing with the sheriff’s office for months, I contacted the FBI with all my documentation showing how the police kept lying to me and changing their stories. they did try to investigate them. However, Mr. Hillar Moore apparently invited himself to that meeting and shut that meeting down. Moore told the FBI that it is just too hard to go against a doctor,” she said. “This was disturbing and sickening, knowing Mr. Veeters had already admitted to the detectives within one week what he did to me without consent—trying to pretend it was a normal Medical procedure.

“I have since learned another victim went to the sheriff’s office in 2012…but no one ever took her seriously or even investigated her assault,” the woman said. “I had to fight so hard against the people who should be protecting us. They had his admission on tape, they had others who reported it to them and the board yet they kept lying to me. Why?”

She said sheriff’s office investigators initially were supportive and told her she was doing the right thing in filing charges against Veeters. But then she said authorities suddenly began “to tell me different stories and start(ed) deflecting when we question(ed) them on things” and opened and closed her case three times. “I now know why victims do not come forward. It takes so much power and strength to report something like this and you aren’t allowed to heal and push the memory away as quick (sic) as you would like.”

She said she and her husband met with sheriff’s office investigators but got no answers.

“I also have emails dating back to July 2018 between Hillar Moore and myself—where I’d share things with him about the sheriff’s office,” the woman said, “and from July 2018 until January 2019 he would tell me he’d get with them and they’d get back to me. He never got back to me!! It was almost comical. I went from patient to angry that someone didn’t want to protect the women in our community. He completely stopped responding to me once I told him I learned who Floyd falcon was. Never heard from him again!

“When I finally met with the assistant DA in May 2019, she claimed they were protecting me. I have no idea what they were protecting me from nor do I believe her. Considering they wanted all my medical records from the board and were upset my mental health records were not obtained, I doubt they were protecting me from anything.”

She also was critical of George Papale, legal counsel for the Louisiana Physical Therapy Board, which had received complaints of sexual abuse by Veeters from at least half-a-dozen women. The board finally got around to continuing a prior nine-month suspension handed down on Oct. 5, 2018, suspending Veeters indefinitely on September 13 of this year, seven months after his arrest.

The consent decree signed by Veeters and his attorney, Floyd Falcon, noted that “This is not the first disciplinary action” taken against Veeters “for related professional misconduct and sexual misconduct of a physical therapy patient.”

The board did not recommend disciplinary action on a similar complaint in 2012 and in January 2014, placed Veeters “on notice,” but took no formal disciplinary action against him.

The board’s reluctance did not deter Papale from firing off a 24-page letter of complaint to State Sen. John Alario in which he asked for an investigation “on behalf of the citizens of Louisiana” of actions taken by the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee during and following a May 15, 2019 hearing relative to the board, which Papale termed “unlawful and unprofessional.”

Papale, who no longer represents the board, complained that committee chair Karen Carter Peterson and Sen. Jean-Paul rebuked the board “with callous disregard for the truth” by repeatedly mischaracterizing the adjudication of a complaint by saying “a person who is under nine counts of sexual assault charges is under probation with the board” and “this guy got a nine-month slap on the wrist.”

His letter also accused the committee of threatening and attacking board members, its employees and contractors and of saying the board was failing the citizens of Louisiana “without investigation into the validity of the complaints, nor a basic understanding of administrative laws, processes, or procedure.”

To read the full text of that 24-page letter, go HERE.

Consent agreement of OCTOBER 5, 2018

Latest CONSENT AGREEMENT

 

 

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Google the definition of jury tampering and you get several hits, all of which say the same thing. I have chosen to include the following definition from the web page of USLegal:

  • A person commits the crime of jury tampering if, with intent to influence a juror’s vote, opinion, decision or other action in the case, he attempts directly or indirectly to communicate with a juror other than as part of the proceedings in the trial of the case. Jury tampering may be committed by conducting conversations about the case outside the court, offering bribes, making threats or asking acquaintances to communicate with a juror. (emphasis mine)
  • A juror includes any person who is a member of any jury, including a grand jury, impaneled by any court or by any public servant authorized by law to impanel a jury. The term juror also includes any person who has been summoned or whose name has been drawn to attend as a prospective juror. (emphasis mine)

Certainly, I am not an attorney nor am I a legal scholar by any stretch of the imagination.

But if the House does ultimately approve articles of impeachment for President Donald Trump—which now seems inevitable—then the question of jury tampering could conceivably arise, which could explain why Mitch McConnell advised Trump to back off his tactic of CRITICIZING SENATORS who may soon be sitting in judgment of him.

As a disclaimer, let me say up front this is not a partisan essay but a legitimate question about a legal conundrum that may need to be addressed down the road if the laws concerning jury tampering are to be enforced across the board at all levels of jurisprudence.

The potential problem revolves around the fact that (a) the House, which will have to vote to impeach, will act in the same role as a grand jury does when it indicts an individual and (b) the Senate will serve as the jury in the trial that would follow.

That means that every member of Congress—435 House members and 100 senators—would be serving at some point as either a member of the grand jury (House) or the petit jury (Senate).

So, when Trump goes tweets any criticism of any representative or senator over the issue of impeachment, is he committing the crime of jury tampering? When he says Republicans need to “GET TOUGHER AND FIGHT” on impeachment, could that be considered an attempt to influence a juror’s vote?

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) is one of Trump’s more vocal supporters who championed the impeachment of Bill Clinton but now rails against a similar move to impeach a president from his own party.

And Graham’s sometimes steadfast defense of Trump and his strident criticism of the impeachment hearings creates a glaring jury tampering problem in its own right.

You see, Graham heads up a political action committee (PAC) called FUND FOR AMERICA’S FUTURE. In fact, on the PAC’s web page is a quote from Graham: “I helped establish Fund for America’s Future several years ago to support conservative candidates for federal and state office. We will work hard to grow the Republican Party and chip away at the Democrats’ control of Washington.”

And as Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “Ay, there’s the rub” (often misquoted as “Therein lies the rub”).

Of 21 Republican senators up for reelection next year, 15 have accepted $110,000 between them from Fund for America’s Future this year alone—all since the subject of impeachment was first broached inside the Beltway. These senators, with the amounts they received, include:

  • Dan Sullivan, Alaska: $10,000;
  • Tom Cotton, Arkansas: $5,000;
  • Cory Gardner, Colorado: $5,000;
  • David Perdue, Georgia: $10,000;
  • Joni Ernst, Iowa: $10,000;
  • Mitch McConnell: $10,000;
  • Susan Collins, Maine: $5,000;
  • Cindy Hyde-Smith, Mississippi: $5,000;
  • Steve Daines, Montana: $10,000;
  • Ben Sasse, Nebraska: $5,000;
  • Thom Tillis, North Carolina: $5,000;
  • Jim Inhofe, Ohio: $5,000;
  • Lamar Alexander, Tennessee: $10,000;
  • John Cornyn, Texas: $10,000;
  • Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia: $5,000.

Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy had no contributions from Graham’s PAC, though he did receive $11,200 from Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas Republican power brokers. Several other senators also received contributions from the father and daughter from Nevada.

Additionally, several senators received contributions from Citizens United Political Victory Fund. That’s the PAC that convinced the SUPREME COURT to remove limits on corporations spending on political campaigns, a decision that led to the creation of super PACs.

Interestingly Citizens United Political Victory Fund provided compensation of an undetermined amount to Kellyanne Conway, who never passes up an opportunity appear on Fox News to defend Trump and to attack the impeachment hearings. No explanation was provided as to the purpose of that payment to her. That compensation, of course, further clouds the issue of jury tampering.

Cotton ($5,000), Daines ($10,000), and Graham ($5,000) also received funding from Citizens United Political Victory Fund while 10 received contributions from Citizens for Prosperity in America PAC, an organization that contributes 100 percent to Republican causes and candidates. Those included:

  • Sullivan: $15,000;
  • Gardner: $5,000;
  • Perdue: $10,000;
  • Ernst: $10,000;
  • McConnell: $5,000;
  • Daines: $5,000;
  • Tillis: $10,000;
  • Inhofe: $5,000;
  • Graham: $5,000;
  • Cornyn: $11,600.

Money is never given to any politician without the expectation of something in return. And inasmuch as these senators received these contributions this year with the full knowledge that they would likely be sitting as a jury in judgment of fellow Republican Trump, the question of (wait for it) quid pro quo comes into play and that would appear to constitute jury tampering.

In 1929, the Louisiana legislature voted to impeach Gov. Huey Long but he pulled a brilliant move that guaranteed victory. He convinced 15 senators to sign a pledge, the so-called “ROUND ROBIN” not to vote to convict. They were later rewarded with state jobs and other favors with some even alleged to have been paid in cash or given lavish gifts. That certainly was jury tampering by every definition of the term.

As far as we know, Trump has yet to attempt to get 34 senators to sign such a pledge.

As far as we know.

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Some weeks ago, I stopped counting political brochures arriving in my mailbox by sheer numbers, choosing instead to measure them by the pound.

Republic Services has probably had to put another truck or two into service just to cart away the political mail-outs cluttering the mailboxes on my street alone. They’re too slick to use for the bottoms of bird cages, so they serve no real purpose other than to attest to the fact we are needlessly killing far too many trees.

It wouldn’t be so bad if they actually offered anything new but, to paraphrase a line uttered by Frasier on the sitcom Cheers, they’re redundant, they repeat themselves, they say the same things over and over—and still they don’t tell us a thing about the candidate except perhaps in the case of one Edith Carlin, who insists she’s the male version of Donald Trump, a rather dubious self-accolade, if there ever was one.

Carlin describes herself in her fliers as “an outsider like President Trump.” (And yes, she does underscore the word outsider.) She goes on to say, “Just like President Trump, Edith Carlin is a self-made person…”

Really? Did she begin drawing millions from her father while still a child? Did her father purchase her way into the Wharton School of Business? Did she hire undocumented workers, not pay them, and default on billions of dollars of loans from banks into order to become “self-made”? Did she become “self-made” by declaring bankruptcy half-a-dozen times? Is she “self-made” from cheating thousands of students in a fraudulent “university” that was under investigation until making a big campaign contribution to the attorney general who was investigating the school? Is that what she means by “self-made”?

She should be so proud.

She says she “will hold the government accountable in a way politicians can’t.” Really? How does she plan to do that? That promise has been made thousands upon thousands of times by thousands upon thousands of candidates but nothing seems to change. But she’s different, I suppose. She’s proposing to waltz into a 39-member body and single-handedly convince her fellow senators and 105 House members that they’ve been wrong all along and they will obligingly repent of their evil ways.

That’s about as absurd as every four years, the candidates for mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish vow to make public education better when in reality, the mayor’s office has zero to do with the school board. Zero.

Well, one of the things Carlin says she’ll do is “fix I-12 issues without raising the gas tax.” Well, Ms. Carlin, it would be most interesting to hear just how you plan to go about doing that.

“After billions of dollars in tax increases,” she says, “the government now admits taking too much from us.” I suppose she’s referring to the $300 million – $500 million surplus of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration. But personally, I much prefer a surplus of $500 million to the eight years of $1 billion deficits of the best-forgotten Jindal administration.

She is running against State Rep. J. Rogers Pope, a fellow Republican, who is term-limited and who is running for the seat of former State Sen. Dale Erdy, also term-limited. Pope is a former Livingston Parish school superintendent who brought our school system up to among the best in the state. Pope’s big sin is he doesn’t always vote the party line, choosing instead to vote his conscience, an attribute many claim as their voting philosophy but which few can back up. But when you cross party lines, you cross the party and the party is the party is the party and the party doesn’t forget.

Carlin claims politicians “haven’t fixed our drainage problems,” that “80 percent of our district flooded.” True. I flooded, as did thousands of others. And of course, Carlin’s hero, Trump, dragged his feet in getting the requirements for assistance approved by HUD. It’s been three years and many still have received nothing from FEMA. As for fixing our drainage problems, she says we need an engineer to fix those problems. She is an engineer.

But guess what? Rogers Pope was an educator. Do you think they assigned him to the House Education Committee? Nope. That would make far too much sense. They tucked him away where he wouldn’t be a nuisance to Jindal and John White. Does Carlin think she’ll fare any better? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, she says she’ll work to improve drainage problems but she’s against taxes. It’s going to be interesting to see her just snap her fingers and make our problems vanish.

But to really understand the candidate Carlin, it’s always best to follow the money to see who is the power behind the politician (and she is now officially a politician, her denials notwithstanding).

So, I went onto the campaign finance records to see who her backers are.

The results were eye-opening, to say the least.

To narrow the field, I looked only at contributions of $500 or more. I found 65 contributions totaling $68,500 since January 1, 2019, including a couple of multiple contributions by the same donor, namely Republican power broker Lane Grigsby, who also backed Jindal and who is backing Eddie Rispone for governor.

I also noted a $2,500 contribution from Koch Industries.

But the real story is that of those 65 contributions, is that exactly 11 were from Livingston Parish while 32 were from East Baton Rouge Parish, 14 from other parts of the state and eight were from out of state. That’s 11 from Livingston and 54 from elsewhere.

Those 11 Livingston Parish contributors (actually, only 10 because one person contributed on two different occasions) accounted for $14,500 (including $4,500 from just three persons) while the 32 East Baton Rouge Parish donors ponied up $37,500. The 14 from other areas of the state gave $17,500 and out-of-state contributors chipped in $13,500.

So, Livingston Parish contributors gave just 21 percent of Carlin’s total while backers in Baton Rouge put up 54.7 percent of her total.

Livingston Parish voters may wish to ask themselves why so many people in Baton Rouge are involving themselves in a race in Livingston Parish. Well, let’s see who they are:

  • EastPac, NorthPac, WestPac, and SouthPac, all arms of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), combined to give $19,267. Since there are limits as to how much a political action committee may give, LABI simply bent the rules by creating not one, not two, not three, but four PACs.
  • Lane Grigsby: $2,500.
  • Todd Grigsby: $1,000.
  • ABC (Associated Builders and Contractors) Pelican PAC: $2,500.
  • The Louisiana Homebuilders Association PAC: $2,500.
  • TransPac (a trucking industry PAC): $1,500.
  • Investment portfolio manager Meagan Shields: $3,000 (two $1,500 contributions).
  • Louisiana Student Financial Aid Association (LASFAA) PAC: $1,000.

Besides Koch Industries of Wichita, Kansas, out-of-state contributors included:

  • Republican State Leadership Committee, Washington, D.C.: $2,500.
  • Chevron, San Ramon, California: $2,500.
  • Stand for Children PAC, Portland, Oregon: $2,000.
  • Weyerhaeuser, Seattle, Washington: $1,500.
  • Marathon Petroleum, Findlay, Ohio: $1,500.
  • Tanner Barrow, Worthing, South Dakota: $1,000.
  • Micham Roofing, Sparta, Missouri: $500.

Louisiana contributors not from Livingston or East Baton Rouge Parish who contributed were from Bossier City, Slidell, New Orleans (2), Shreveport (2), Raceland, Jennings, Mandeville, Alexandria, Prairieville, Covington, Ponchatoula, and Gray.

So, those who haven’t already voted early may wish to ask themselves why the Republican party has turned on one of its own in such a vicious manner—but mostly why so much outside money is being poured into Edith Carlin’s campaign.

You may also wish to ask yourself whether she will be beholden to the people of Livingston Parish or to the faceless PACs of Baton Rouge, Washington, and elsewhere.

She may call herself a political outsider, but from here, she looks more like a puppet with the potential to be controlled by political insiders from outside Livingston Parish.

 

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There are certain procedures that must be followed in submitting public records requests to public agencies and with many agencies, if the procedure is not followed to the letter, you will find cooperation nonexistent.

Such is the case with Dr. Arnold Feldman, a pain management physician whose license was suspended by the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners which, just to be sure that he has been silenced, imposed a half-million dollar fine against him.

Dr. Feldman is unfamiliar with the proper method of making public records requests, as evidenced by a number of his requests that LouisianaVoice has obtained. For example, he has on occasion asked for general information instead of requesting specific documents.

In such cases the board, like many state agencies, is unforgiving, responding that his request is “overly broad” without explaining how—or by not responding at all.

It helps if you preface your request with: “Pursuant to the Public Records Act of Louisiana (R.S. 44:1 et seq.), I respectfully request the opportunity to review the following information:

Then you may wish to quote certain passages from the state’s public records statute, i.e. the penalties that non-compliance with the request carry. That puts officials on notice that you are knowledgeable about the public records statute.

And even though Dr. Feldman’s request did not follow these procedures, there are those occasions where the official response is so absurd that the official efforts to deny information becomes obvious.

For example, Dr. Feldman made one request that granted, did not follow protocol when he inquired as to whether or not Hammond attorney George M. Papale had ever been elected as a judge (he has not).

And while the request itself did not specifically ask for a public record, the board’s response in a JULY 9 LETTER by Dr. Vincent Culotta, executive director of the board, was laughable—and incorrect:

“…responses to public records requests are sometimes done with the assistance of counsel and we object to producing such information such information for your request on grounds of attorney-client and work product privileges.”

That is pure B.S. and Culotta knows it. And if he doesn’t, he should be fired because it’s part of his job to know.

Virtually every state agency, upon receiving any request for public records, runs that request by its legal counsel—meaning that practically all public records requests are done “with the assistance of counsel.”

By that line of reasoning, all public records requests could be refused.

A week earlier, in a JULY 2 LETTER, Dr. Culotta responded to Dr. Feldman:

“Specifically, you requested: ‘Has George Papale, who has been paid by this board, ever been an elected judge? Please provide me with a copy of his complete file.’

“I outline for you the objections of the Board to the scope of your request and specifically assert these objections to the production of any of the materials listed therein, if any exists, for the following, non-exhaustive reasons:”

One of the reasons given cited a state statute which provides that the “records and documents in the possession of any agency or any officer or employee thereof, including any written conclusions therefrom, which are deemed confidential and privileged shall not be subject to subpoena by any person or other state or federal agency.”

The key here is the phrase “which are deemed confidential and privileged.”

In the case of all public employees, from the governor on down, certain information is considered public information. This includes job titles, dates of hire and termination, salaries, official travel records, and expense vouchers (hotels, meals, mileage) and payments. In the cases of contract employees, copies of such contracts, terms of payment, job duties, invoices and payments are all considered public records.

How do I know this? I have made similar requests—and received documents—from many state agencies, one of the most frequent being the Louisiana State Police and the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

In cases of denial of a valid request, the requester may file a lawsuit against the agency and the person making the decision to deny the records. If the requester prevails, the agency or individual making the decision can be fined up to $100 per day, plus court costs and attorney fees, for denial of each request.

How do I know this? I have been successful in three of four lawsuits over public records or illegal executive sessions of a public body.

As with the State Board of Dentistry, the Board of Medical Examiners is flexing its enforcement muscle against those who do not have the expertise or the financial resources to fight back. A half-million-dollar fine is overkill in every possible consideration. Doctors and dentists have been broken and their careers left in tatters because of similar oppressive, dictatorial actions and it’s long past the time they should be reined in.

And for the record, attorney George Papale is still under contract to the Board of Medical Examiners even after his—and his daughter’s—employment was TERMINATED by another regulatory board, the Louisiana Physical Therapy Board.

The two attorneys had their contracts terminated following widespread complaints about the board’s handling of sexual misconduct cases.

The board was ripped by lawmakers after it was learned it had failed to revoke licenses after physical therapists settled claims of sexual misconduct with patients.

Baton Rouge physical therapist Philippe Veeters was charged with sexual battery and accused of assaulting nine patients but instead of revoking his license, the board merely suspended his license for nine months, prompting State Sen. J.P. Morrell (D-New Orleans) to call the action a “slap on the wrist.”

Dr. Feldman should re-phrase his requests and if unsuccessful, seek a legal solution.

That’s not legal advice; it’s advice from one who has been down the same road on many occasions.

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Trying to decipher which was the first to employ Gestapo-like extortion as a means of controlling licensees is like solving the chicken-or-the-egg riddle, but there’s no question that the methods employed by the Louisiana Board of Dentistry and the Louisiana State Medical Licensing Board are eerily similar.

Both employ highly questionable investigative methods, both impose stiff fines followed by even more outrageous fines if the licensee displays any will to resist what may even be bogus charges, and both make generous use of the most effective punishment: revocation of licenses—taking away the victim’s very means of earning a livelihood.

And both also occasionally force recalcitrant dentists and physicians to attend costly rehab clinics either in addition to or in lieu of license revocations. And those rehab clinics can cost as much as $30,000 a month.

Sometimes, a professional is sent to a facility that has its own abuse problems. Take the case of Slidell dentist KENNETH STARLING, who, in addition to having to pay an $8,000 fine, was sent by the dental board to a place called Palmetto Addition Recovery Center in Rayville in Richland Parish in 2010.

But PALMETTO, it turned out, was involved a 2009 lawsuit after one of its staff members, Dr. Douglas Wayne Cook, became sexually involved with one of the center’s patients.

And even while at Palmetto, the dental board continued targeting him. Could that be because he practiced in the same town as influential board member Dr. Edward Donaldson?

And while the practices of the dental board have been publicized often by LouisianaVoice, the state medical board essentially plays by the same rules. And, just as with the dental board, the name of Palmetto Addiction Recovery Centers surfaces on a regular basis in report after report, along with Pine Grove Recovery Centers in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Physicians’ Health Foundation of Louisiana.

I have chosen to delete the names and locations of the following examples, but the cases serve as examples of an uneven playing field, often dependent upon on the physician in question:

  • Following his arrest on charges of distribution and possession of controlled and dangerous substances in 2005, Dr. ________submitted to substance abuse evaluation at Palmetto. “Apparently, the physician had submitted to chemical dependency treatment on two prior occasions. Upon his discharge from Palmetto, he underwent residential treatment at Pine Grove. His license was reinstated in 2009 but in 2013, the board received information indicating that the physician “had returned to the use of controlled or other mood-altering substances.” In 2018, after being placed on indefinite probation in 2014, his license was “reinstated without restriction.”
  • ___________entered a plea of guilty to one count of Medicaid fraud in 2002 and subsequently underwent in-patient chemical dependency evaluation for cocaine abuse. Following completion of his criminal penalty, he was referred to Physician Health Foundation’s Physician Health Program (PHP). Following his reinstatement in 2008, he was disciplined again in 2018, this time placed on probation for unspecified violations.
  • _________________ was diagnosed in 1999 with cocaine and alcohol addiction and in 2000 was referred to Talbott Recovery Campus in Atlanta, Georgia through Physicians’ Health Foundation and later to Fontainebleau Treatment Center in Mandeville. His license was reinstated in 2006 but in 2007, he again came under scrutiny for drug abuse and was again referred to a PHP monitoring program and he was placed on probation by the board for a 10-year period in 2008. He was reinstated “without restriction” in 2018.
  • ________________ entered a plea of guilty to one count of health care fraud in 2009. In addition to criminal penalties, the board suspended his license for 90 days, placed him on probation for five years, and fined him $3,000. Following his reinstatement in December 2009, it was subsequently learned in 2011 that he had been issuing prescriptions of narcotics, including OxyContin, from his home and vehicle since May 2009 under the auspices of a practice site not approved by the board. The board again suspended his license, this time for six months and he was placed on probation for 10 years.
  • _________________ voluntarily entered into a two-week program at DePaul Hospital in New Orleans for cocaine dependency in 1995 and 1996 before transferring to Talbott Marsh in Atlanta. The board in 1998 ordered him into additional treatment in PHP at Palmetto and placed him on probation for five years. In 2003, he was again placed on five-year probation for failure to comply with requirements set forth in the 1998 order. His license was reinstated “without restriction” in 2018.

But when a Lafayette NEUROSURGEON becomes involved in suspected arson and subsequently enters a plea of guilty to one count of felony obstruction of justice, the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners is strangely silent.

Dr. Nancy Rogers was arrested in 2012 in connection with the fire at Levy-East Bed & Breakfast in Natchitoches, a blaze that caused $500,000 in damage to the unoccupied building. No motive has been given for the fire, but investigators determined it to have been intentionally set.

But in the case of Dr. ARNOLD FELDMAN of Baton Rouge, the board came down especially hard.

In a terse December 20, 2018, LETTER TO FELDMAN, board Executive Director Vincent Culotta, Jr., wrote, “Per the decision and order of the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners dated April 13, 2015, the amount due is as follows:

  • Cost of proceeding—$456,980.60
  • Administrative fine—$5,000
  • Total: $461,980.60.

This is not intended as a treatsie on Feldman’s guilt or innocence, but it’s rather difficult to fathom what “proceedings” could cost nearly $457,000 but that’s the way the dental and medical examiners boards operate. While members of both boards are appointed by the governor, they are apparently accountable to no one and able to set fines and costs at whatever amounts they wish.

Feldman served briefly as a member of the Physicians’ Health Foundation until he started asking questions that made certain people uncomfortable. Four months later, he found himself in the board’s crosshairs. But during his short tenure, he learned that the medical board funnels about a million dollars a year into the foundation. Apparently, there is no accounting for those funds.

Moreover, he said, the so-called “independent judges” hearing cases for possible board disciplinary action are paid by the board investigator’s office, which creates something of a stacked deck going into the process—not to mention an obvious conflict of interest.

Physicians aren’t the only ones to encounter an uncooperative medical board. The Legislative Auditor was forced to SUE the board in order to obtain board records so that it could perform its statutorily-mandated job of auditing the board’s financial records.

Senate Bill 286, the so-called physicians’ Bill of Rights, passed the SENATE by a unanimous 36-0 vote last year but never made it to the floor of the House after being involuntarily deferred in committee.

But a rare unanimous DECISION by the U.S. Supreme Court exactly two months later, on February 20, could impact the way these boards mete out exorbitant fines.

Even though the high court’s ruling on Timbs v. Indiana is considered a blow aimed at criminal justice reform, particularly in the so-called policing for profit through asset forfeiture, its effects could spill over into the way civil fines are handed down by regulatory bodies.

The ruling, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, falls back on the Eighth Amendment that guarantees that no “excessive fines” may be imposed, a concept that dates back to the Magna Carta and later embraced by the framers of the U.S. Constitution.

It will be interesting to see if any dentist or physician victimized by either of these boards files legal action based on the Supreme Court’s most recent ruling.

If someone does, it could be a game changer.

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