; Investigative Report Remade board treads gently State chiropractors overseer is light on discipline big on license leniency By John Hill jhill sacbee com Published 12 00 am PST Sunday Dece
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Investigative Report Remade board treads gently State chiropractors overseer is light on discipline big on license leniency By John Hill jhill sacbee com Published 12 00 am PST Sunday Dece

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									Investigative Report: Remade board treads
gently
State chiropractors' overseer is light on discipline, big on license
leniency.
By John Hill - jhill@sacbee.com
Published 12:00 am PST Sunday, December 2, 2007
In this two-part report, we take a closer look at the state Board of Chiropractic Examiners.

Stocked with a roster of the governor's appointees, the new state Board of Chiropractic
Examiners has been slower to yank licenses and quicker to soften previous sanctions.

Among the four chiropractors reinstated this year by the board that oversees California's 15,000
chiropractors was a man who repaid $150,000 to insurance companies he defrauded and another
who an earlier board determined had tried to seduce a female patient.

The new board granted another chiropractor probation instead of revoking his license after he
was convicted of insurance fraud and forced to repay $114,742.

The shift toward more leniency happened this year, when a longtime friend of Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger, chiropractor Richard Tyler, took over as board chairman and was joined by
three other gubernatorial appointees, two of them chiropractors.

Within weeks, the newly configured board dismissed the executive director, considered too harsh
on chiropractors. Key members of the enforcement staff left, one citing a hostile board. Amid the
mounting controversy, the board's $3 million budget was slashed in half when Schwarzenegger
vetoed legislation that tied the full budget to a ballot measure diluting board autonomy.

As a result, the board says it no longer has the resources to pursue as many disciplinary cases
against chiropractors. But The Bee found that the new board tended toward leniency long before
the October budget cut.

In the past nine months, the board:

• Reinstated licenses of four chiropractors, an action taken seven times in the previous five years.

• Agreed to end probation early for four chiropractors, lifting sanctions such as psychological
counseling and billing practice audits. It took the previous board five years to reach that total.

• Took away chiropractors' licenses at a rate of one a month, less than half the average rate of
this discipline during the prior nine years, the period covered by legislative reviews of the board.

• Opted for probation over taking away a chiropractor's license in about three-quarters of the
disciplinary cases; in the previous nine years, probation was granted in less than half of the
cases.

• Stopped sending cease-and-desist letters to chiropractors found to be engaging in illegal
practices. The board sent 46 cease-and-desist letters in 2005 and 32 in 2006.

On Friday, a Schwarzenegger spokesman acknowledged problems, without being specific.
"The administration recognizes that some well-intentioned mistakes have been made by the
board," said spokesman Aaron McLear. "But they have been working to get their affairs in order."

He mentioned the hiring of a new executive director, attempts to restore full funding and recent
legal work with the Department of Consumer Affairs.

"We feel the board has made necessary changes and is back on track to fulfill their charge of
protecting consumers," McLear added.

Tyler, appointed to the board in 2004, has been a friend of Schwarzenegger's for years. In fact,
he picked up the then-bodybuilder at the airport when he arrived in the United States in 1968.

He and other board members say they still intend to crack down on chiropractors who endanger
or bamboozle the public.

Tyler said in an interview Friday that the board merely wanted to rein in the excesses of an anti-
chiropractic staff. He pointed out that board members only rule on cases that first have been
vetted by staff and an administrative law judge.

"It's not like we're some evil cabal of people trying to put things over," he said.

In addition to Tyler, the current board includes chiropractors Frederick Lerner, Hugh Lubkin and
former bodybuilder Francesco Columbu, and public members James Conran and retired judge
James Duvaras. One seat remains open.

Lubkin, appointed in March, challenged any characterization of the board as lenient, saying that is
"completely inconsistent with my perspective of what's happened."

Tyler "is one of the more aggressive guys," Lubkin said. When chiropractors have done
something wrong, "he doesn't even want them to be licensed in the state of California." As for
himself, Lubkin said, "I have zero tolerance for that kind of thing."

Yet before he became a board member, Lubkin publicly asserted in a disciplinary case against a
chiropractor that it might be legitimate to treat a patient 300 times in 2 1/2 years, a position
criticized as "unreasonable" by an administrative law judge in the case.

Asked about those statements, Lubkin described them as hypothetical and said he does not
follow them in his own practice.

Tyler also wrote a book that advocates techniques deemed inappropriate by earlier boards, such
as homeopathy – treatment with substances producing symptoms similar to those of the
underlying illness – and applied kinesiology, which uses muscle strength to diagnose illnesses.

He pointed out Friday that the book was written for a national audience and that he warns
readers to check local rules.

Helped by a new leniency
A former Sacramento chiropractor is among those who benefited from the board's leniency. David
Oranen lost his license in 1998, six months after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges of fraud
and petty theft and no contest to another misdemeanor fraud charge.

Oranen was accused of billing multiple insurers for the same treatments and falsely billing in the
name of a medical doctor no longer working at his clinic.

As part of his plea, Oranen had to pay $150,000 to 15 insurance companies and complete 300
hours of community service. When the board took away his license, it turned down his request
for probation because of "the nature and extent" of the fraud, according to a 1997 administrative
law judge decision adopted by the board.
In the ensuing years, Oranen tried twice to get his license back, but was rejected both times. The
second time, in 2005, the board questioned his credibility when he testified that he couldn't recall
key details of his fraud case.

On his third try, he told the board that he had been under stress trying to run a busy practice and
followed advice gleaned from seminars about teaming with a medical doctor to persuade insurers
to pay for chiropractic treatments.

In his years without a license, Oranen said, he read a number of books on the chiropractic
profession and "grew up."

Oranen told The Bee that he knows he "absolutely did something wrong," by partnering with a
medical doctor and billing improperly. But he said the previous board was too tough.

"They were way too strict," Oranen said. "There's a point where you've paid your dues and it's
time to let you go practice again."

The new board found him to be rehabilitated and gave him a probationary license in March, at the
first meeting chaired by Tyler. "Petitioner acknowledges that greed drove his actions and he knew
what he was doing was wrong," according to the decision, signed by Tyler. "He is remorseful."

Forgiveness spread around
Contrition seems to be persuasive for the new board, at least in the cases of San Diego
chiropractor Joseph Cobbs, who lost his license for allegedly trying to seduce a patient; Harold
Turk of Encino, charged with taking part in staged car accidents; and Douglas Gainor, now living
in Washington state, who had stopped renewing his license as a protest against government
control.

In June, Cobbs, who the board accusation alleges exposed himself to a patient after asking her to
massage him with her foot, told the board that since that 2000 case, he had read five books and
taken three courses on sexual boundaries. The board granted him a probationary license
requiring a chaperone with female patients.

"They just figured I'd suffered enough," said Cobbs, who admits that he erred by getting into a
situation in which his actions could be misinterpreted, but insists "I was accused of something I
didn't do."

In July, the board said Gainor had "foolishly joined a political group advocating sovereignty" in
the early 1990s, according to the decision to restore his license. "He now regrets his conduct,
understands the importance of licensure and asks forgiveness for his youthful rebellious activity."
The Bee could not locate Gainor.

In August, the board found that Turk "is a different person today than he was when he
committed the offense" and gave him back the license he lost in 2001, after he pleaded no
contest to felony insurance fraud for staging accidents as an intern chiropractor. Two years ago,
the board found that Turk had not "gained sufficient insight into the severity of his actions."

Reached by phone, Turk did not comment.

Violations – but licenses kept
The trend toward leniency also can be seen in new disciplinary cases, with the board more often
opting for probation over revocation, and chiropractors losing their licenses at less than half the
previous rate. Two recent cases echo elements of past revocations.

Chiropractor Kweli Tutashinda of Berkeley did not have to give up his license even after the
board's investigation found that he had engaged in sexual misconduct.

Tutashinda removed a patient's clothes to massage her back, legs and thighs, telling her it was a
chiropractic treatment, according to the attorney general's accusation filed with the board. He
inserted his finger into her vagina. In another instance, the same patient alleged, Tutashinda
ejaculated.

Reached by telephone, Tutashinda declined to comment.

In July, the new board suspended Tutashinda from practicing for 30 days and gave him five years
probation. He must attend ethics classes and have a witness present during examinations.

Cerritos chiropractor Ohun Kwon kept his license, too, despite a criminal conviction for insurance
fraud.

Kwon pleaded guilty in 2006 to insurance fraud and grand theft felonies for presenting insurers
with false claims. He received a suspended three-year sentence in Los Angeles Superior Court
and was required to pay back $114,742.

The board last month put Kwon on five years' probation and gave him a 90-day suspension.
Kwon declined to comment.


http://www.sacbee.com/111/v-print/story/535771.html

								
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