"A crooked lawyer in our society is almost beyond reach."
G.Robert Blakey, Organized Crime section of the Department of Justice
Add dark political influence to said crooked lawyer and we deal with a ridiculously unassailable fortress.
The passage of term limits in California completely changed the locus of power in Sacramento. Legislators now race through the system, attempting to master a thirty year job in fewer than ten years in order to create their legacy. With term limits, the permanent parties have the real influence. They are the Lobbyists, Legislative staff and State employees. They train the Legislators and try to keep them out of trouble. They are the crafters of the legacy. The professional Licensing Boards are identical. The Board Members are appointed, and rarely do they serve more than 5 years. They are informed and guided by the Boards Executive staff and influenced by Lobbyists. State employees remain on board while Members come and go.
The Fellmeths are both lawyers. Mrs.Fellmeth is a trained Prosecutor and Registered Lobbyist for CPIL, their family business. Ed Howard is a Lobbyist for CPIL and on their Board of Directors They also have a Media Lobbyist (KSR Strategy Group). With a media lobbyist, CPIL is able to feed a nasty story about a doctor to an Orange County free paper and then place it in a State document as independent investigative reporting.
In one of Mrs Fellmeth's self-aggrandizing themes, she points out how she has attended every Medical Board meeting for over 20 years. Together with Robert, they require law students from the USD School of Law to attend the meetings of the other Licensing Boards. The purpose is to invent or develop reasons to complain that a particular Board is not protecting the public. Robert came up with this lucrative justification for CPIL.
The Licensing Boards are low hanging fruit for CPIL. Once the Boards came under the Department of Consumer Affairs, no one was allowed to question their attacks. Under their self-proclaimed banner of public protection, no challenges are permitted. Easy pickings.
Mrs.Fellmeth likes the Medical Board in particular. She has been enriched by selling an equation: advocating various ways to damage and ruin physicians equals patient protection. Her special target has been physicians in recovery and the former Physician Diversion Program. In spite of the obvious successes and contributions the Diversion Program has provided to better the quality of medical care, Mrs.Fellmeth was able to sell her false narrative of the "failed program". Like any professional Lobbyist, she forged alliances with the Executive Directors and the Board Members, then determined their perceptions. Calling Audits from the early 80's "evidence of failure" rather than a record of accomplishment in the face of difficulties , she relied on the fact that no one reads old audits. Her epic tome of bad faith, the Enforcement Monitor Report, is largely unread but frequently quoted by her. Even the BSA Audit of 2007 is generally unread. Who reads State audits? For those who are familiar with program audits, they don't find it a failure by any means. If they actually read other BSA audits of California Programs or Departments, they are baffled by the CPIL negative spin . If they read other BSA audits, they will find much harsher Findings and conclusions. She falsely claims the lucrative Enforcement Monitor Report has never been challenged or refuted. Both Fellmeths repeat the false claims that patients were harmed by physicians in Diversion, and no one demands actual facts. Mrs Fellmeth/KSR fed media stories are never verified. Having a Media Lobbyist is solid gold for CPIL. In politics, perceptions rule and perceptions are easily manipulated by CPIL.
CPIL like to represent themselves as protectors of the underdog against the powerful special interests. In their war or "judicious jihad" against physicians in recovery, they are the well paid Lobbyists. Physicians in recovery are easy to demonize by fictional accounts of patient harm. The supposed powerful advocates, like CSAM and CMA, are politically weak and have other more important agendas.
The case of the Target Physician is a prime example. CPIL aligned with self-proclaimed victims and tabloid media to create a monster to destroy. They had their "evidence of patient harm by a physician in Diversion". With this concoction, they dominated the Medical Board and its Chairman, Richard Fantozzi MD. Reading Fantozzi's apologia for closing Diversion in the Medical Board"˜s Official document, a discerning reader easily realizes Mrs.Fellmeth is the real author. The references to "botched surgeries" have never been verified, and in fact have utterly fallen apart after the damage to the Target Physician and the Diversion Program. Mrs.Fellmeth illicitly obtained the Target Physician's confidential Diversion record and published the titillating and petty details in an official publication of the University of San Diego, a prestigious Catholic University. We can guess the University misplaced its traditional commitment to social justice.
Years earlier, CPIL inserted a Lobbyist (Ed Howard) as Chief Counsel to then Senator Liz Figueroa. CPIL was thus able to write the legislation weakening Diversion. The legislation also created the lucrative Enforcement Monitor position specifically for Mrs.Fellmeth. As payback, Ms Figueroa was appointed to the Board of Directors of Public Citizen. Robert Fellmeth is Chairman of the Board of Public Citizen.
Politically, Mrs.Fellmeth forged a close relationship with Bill Gage, a senior Legislative Consultant for the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee. This is the Committee that deals with Licensing Boards. The Chairmen come and go and Mr.Gage stays. In 2007, Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas Chaired the Committee. He absorbed the CPIL rhetoric against physicians in recovery. He authored and led the effort to successfully pass SB1441 to establish standards for Board sponsored Diversion Programs (e.g., Nurses, Dentists, Pharmacists, etc). Carrie Lopez, the former Executive Director of the Department of Consumer Affairs, along with Mrs.Fellmeth , were in position to be able to undermine the implementation for the benefit of the D'Angelo- Fellmeth family business, CPIL..
In the fall of 2007, Senator Ridley-Thomas generously agreed to meet with actual alumni of the Physician Diversion Program. Bill Gage was at his side, introducing himself as a "close friend of Julie Fellmeth". The Senator led with the Fellmeth feed of "botched surgeries" "zero tolerance" and "enforceable standards". Next, the doctors introduced themselves and told their stories of recovery. Among them was a distinguished Ophthalmologist who had recently received a community service award from the Senator. He provides many hours of unpaid care to an underserved community. Most of us in attendance left somewhat discouraged. The false narrative of CPIL won again. However, in January of 2008, there was a "what do we do now?" Stakeholders meeting in Sacramento. Senator Ridley-Thomas appeared and spoke about the physicians he'd met. He described them as "stellar individuals". In March 2008, at a meeting of the Senate Committee on Business professions and Economic Development, he interrupted Mrs.Fellmeth to rebuke her for her "callous disregard" regarding physicians.
Lost in the false narratives and media manipulations are the typical examples of the benefit of physicians in recovery. While reams of valid research clearly supports the conclusion that physicians in recovery have far lower potential for harm than physicians in general, the accounts of their added benefit to society are lost. Physicians in recovery spot and intervene with addicted patients earlier and more effectively than others. This both reduces healthcare costs and prevents the progression of disease and injury. In contrast, the overall training of physicians regarding addiction is scant. The typical attitude of physicians in training toward addicted patients is quite negative. Addicted patients are demonized and regarded as clogging up the healthcare system. The resulting focus in their training emphasizes end organ damage caused by addiction, while ignoring the underlying cause. CPIL's emphasis on punishing and eliminating physicians in recovery is against the public interest and against consumer protection.
CPIL continues to wage its war against physicians and to enlist the Board's cooperation. Building on a previous victory, the public Enforcement Link, Mrs. Fellmeth seeks further damage under the cover of public protection. In the public Enforcement Link, Accusations by the Attorney General are presented in their entirety without challenge or rebuttal. It is a pure and unadulterated adversarial portrayal of the case. While this writer has objections to the manner of publishing Decisions (no rebuttal, no authentication of the actual facts), publishing Accusations is even worse. Physicians are traumatized when they read them. Those who read a number of Accusations recognize the hyperbolic boiler plate language of the Prosecutor. While the Prosecutor has a necessary function in a Court, the Court has a Judge and Defense Attorney along with the burden of proof. The public Enforcement Link in its present form is merely destructive. Many Deputy Attorney Generals agree.
The public Enforcement Link is simply a step for CPIL. CPIL desires to reduce or eliminate as many Constitutional protections for physicians as possible. Mrs.Fellmeth complains in the press about protections against illegal Search and Seizure. She claims these protections just slow down discipline. She now demands that Complaints be published and placed in doctor's waiting rooms. She would eliminate due process entirely in the steps between a Complaint and Discipline. She wants to eliminate physician Members entirely from the Board, due to her false claim of excessive empathy. Witnessing the Board in action easily contradicts her assertion. The California Board is often both backward and punitive with respect to physicians in recovery. Physicians see the Board as their enemy now. She would substitute Public Members for doctors. The Public Members would be trained by CPIL under their lucrative California Endowment Grant. They would be "jurors" who only hear the Complaint, Accusation and the Prosecutor.
The need to support effective programs of early intervention, secondary prevention and monitoring continues. Additionally, those of us who care about patients and physicians must challenge the repeated false statements of CPIL, confront their destructive agenda and demand transparency from CPIL.
Mrs. Fellmeth continues to attend all Medical Board meetings. This is her life, she is tenacious, she is an expert in manipulating Regulatory Law for her own ends, and this gives her a great advantage over those for whom these issues are only a small part of what they do with their careers. She is now in the patronizing phase of her next attack. In a recent Board meeting, she complimented the Board for having "the sixth best" medical board web site, according to Public Citizen. Stop laughing. Sid Wolfe, MD, is also on the Public Citizen Board. He fronts an annual study that rates and ranks State medical boards based on the number of physicians disciplined. The more disciplined, the better the board, according to Wolfe. They sell the equation that harming doctors equals consumer protection. Their interlocking connections of cronies and media manipulation must be matched with intelligent, active involvement. No Medical Board meeting should lack CSAM, CMA, and CPA participation. The CPIL dominance of the Board functions best in darkness.
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