Monday, August 23, 2010

Department of Defense Inspector General Refuses to Investigate Army Doc Whistleblower’s Complaint

William Beaumont Army Medical Center, Fort Bliss (El Paso), Texas

The victim’s name in the following true story has been changed to Dr. Czr for his protection and for the protection of his family.  All other names remain accurate.

Leaked Congressional Letter and Reprisals

Dr. Czr, an army physician, who was known to be one of the top physicians of his residency class was chosen in August 2008 to become the next chief resident of the Internal Medicine Residency program at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas. In December of 2008, his direct supervisor, Lieutenant Colonel (Dr.) Kent DeZee, wrote a glowing letter of recommendation praising Dr. Czr’s leadership skills. Dr. Czr would start this position on July 1, 2009.

In March 2009, 4 months before starting his new position, Dr. Czr wrote a private letter to Congressman Silvestre Reyes relaying his concerns about the inadequate care that the local Veterans Affairs was providing to its patients. In this letter, Dr. Czr called for the termination of a federal employee, retired Colonel Mary Ancker, who was the liaison between the VA hospital and the military hospital. Ms. Ancker obtained a copy of his private letter and emailed a copy several hospital leaders at William Beaumont Army Medical Center including Dr. Czr’s supervisor, Dr. Kent DeZee on April 7, 2009.  In this email, Ms. Ancker demanded a public apology for Dr. Czr’s private letter.

Immediately, Dr. Kent DeZee then circulated Dr. Czr’s private letter to several other physicians in the hospital and to the residency committee in an effort to remove Dr. Czr from starting his position as chief of medical residents. In his own sworn statement, Dr. DeZee stated he and the committee wanted to “fire” Dr. Czr for his congressional letter but they could not because of the federal whistleblower’s act.  According to Dr. Czr, Dr. DeZee stated that “everyone up to the hospital commander”, the military equivalent of the Hospital CEO, had seen his letter.  The hospital commander at this time was Colonel (Dr.) James Baunchalk.  Dr. Czr requested the notes from this meeting through the Freedom of Information Act, but Colonel Baunchalk and his lawyers have refused to comply.  Dr. Czr also requested the email correspondence between Dr. DeZee and other physicians in the hospital to include Dr. Baunchalk through the Freedom of Information Act, but again Dr. Baunchalk and his lawyers have refused to comply.

When Dr. DeZee would not “fire” Dr. Czr from starting his position, the secretary of the residency program, Ms. Linda Palomarez, told Dr. Czr that he should resign because of the controversy in his congressional letter.  Soon after several senior physicians in the residency program also told Dr. Czr to resign from his future position as the chief resident to include the chief of the Department of Medicine, Colonel Wayne T. Frank.  Dr. Czr refused to resign. 

Dr. Kent DeZee ordered Dr. Pena to file a sexual harassment charge to punish Dr. Czr for his congressional letter.
Dr. Juan Martinez-Ross petitioned other residents to remove Dr. Czr from becoming the chief resident.  
When Dr. Czr refused to resign, Dr. DeZee then attempted to create a petition amongst Dr. Czr’s peers to have him removed as the future chief resident and replace him with Dr. Juan Martinez-Ross.  According to Dr. DeZee’s own memorandum for record, he ordered a resident that he should create this petition.  Dr. Juan Martinez-Ross, who had also applied for the same position in August 2008, was also involved in recruiting others for this petition. In addition, the wife of Dr. Martinez-Ross, Carolyn Martinez-Ross, a school teacher in the El Paso Independent School District, attempted to recruit a person from outside of the residency program to gather grievances against Dr. Czr.  The petition failed.
After Dr. DeZee failed to fire Dr. Czr, to force his resignation, and to create a petition to have Dr. Czr removed he then ordered an intern to file a sexual harassment claim against him.  On May 26, 2009 (less than 2 months before Dr. Czr would have started his position as chief resident), Dr. DeZee ordered Captain (Dr.) Jennifer Marie Pena, an intern who was transferring to Walter Reed in less than 2 months, to file a sexual harassment claim.  Dr. DeZee also transferred to Walter Reed at the beginning of July 2009.
Sexual Harassment Investigation

According to the subsequent investigation, Dr. Pena had unsuccessfully sought a romantic relationship with Dr. Czr while she was engaged to her first fiancé.  However, during the investigation, she falsely claimed she wanted nothing but a professional relationship with Dr. Czr and that she had rejected his advances numerous times. Yet she had divulged personal matters in her life such as her induction into Yale’s Skull and Bones Society, her mother losing her job, and her fiancé’s infidelity. In addition, Dr. Pena shared with Dr. Czr a childhood story when her father, a formal army pharmacist, asked the judge at a custody hearing why should he pay child support when he knew his daughters would grow up to be prostitutes. Finally, records show that Dr. Czr and his wife reported that Dr. Pena was pursuing to break up Dr. Czr’s marriage and had bought Dr. Czr a gift during this same time period that Dr. Pena was allegedly sexually harassed.  In the investigation, Dr. Czr stated that Dr. Pena began making frightening comments to him such as she hoped that his wife would have something “bad happen” so she could be with Dr. Czr and that Dr. Pena claimed she could be a better mother than his wife.
Colonel Baunchalk and his lawyers then influenced the investigation and falsely represented the findings of the investigation. Despite Colonel Baunchalk’s request to extend the investigation, he failed to interview 4 of 7 witnesses requested by Dr. Czr.  One of these witnesses later wrote that she had witnessed Dr. Pena pursuing a relationship with Dr. Czr.  Colonel Baunchalk also ignored Dr. Czr’s photographic evidence of Dr. Pena’s text messages from her to him that solicited him for a sexual/romantic relationship.

Dr. Pena was actually married or engaged to Major Christopher Flaugh during the investigation but stated during the investigation in June 2009 that she was skill engaged to her first fiance.  The photo above shows her last name to be Flaugh as of 1 August 2009.

Dr. Pena’s transfer to Walter Reed was known since December 2008 and her stated reason was to be near her first fiancé, a civilian anesthesiology intern, who lived on the East Coast. Unknown to the program and to the investigating officer was that Dr. Pena’s first fiancé ended the engagement in December 2008.  However, Dr. Pena continued to lie about her engagement to avoid having her transfer canceled.  During the investigation, Dr. Pena continued to claim she was engaged to her first fiancé but denied the investigating officer access to him.  Records show that Dr. Pena was actually engaged to Major Christopher Flaugh, a physical therapist at William Beaumont Army Medical Center at or near the time of her sexual harassment claim. Major Flaugh would soon transfer to Walter Reed after Dr. Pena’s transfer in July 2009.  Colonel Baunchalk’s lawyers also refused to interview Major Christopher Flaugh at the request of Dr. Czr.

Dr. Pena was dating this medical student during her first engagement.
Records also show that Dr. Pena was well-known for her lewd, hypersexual behavior and sexually-explicit comments. In a statement by Dr. Czr’s wife, Dr. Pena had once asked her and several other women during a social dinner if they preferred to spit or swallow in reference to oral sex. One of the people interviewed in the investigation reported how Dr. Pena had snuck into his bed after he had fallen asleep while she was engaged to her first fiancé. In addition, Dr. Pena was also dating a medical student in El Paso while she was engaged to her first fiancé.  Later, Dr. Czr would reveal that Dr. Pena had sexually assaulted him in call room in November 2008.  The Criminal Investigative Division of the Army is currently investigating Dr. Pena for this sexual assault.
Another example of Dr. Pena's lewd behavior while she was engaged to her first fiance.

Dr. Robert Gayle illegally prescribed Dr. Pena a psychotropic at around the time of her sexual harassment allegation.
Dr. Casey Danielsen and Dr. Pena were involved in federal prescription fraud.
Dr. Nathalie Paolino transferred to Walter Reed with Dr. Pena and now lives in the same apartment complex.
Colonel Baunchalk then falsely substantiated Dr. Pena’s claim of sexual harassment “by the majority of the witness statements and phone records”.  The investigation showed that only 5 of the 15 witnesses interviewed had allegedly seen any evidence of sexual harassment.  Dr. Pena showed a partial phone record where she had blacked out all phone calls except those received from Dr. Czr.  Dr. Pena’s complete phone records later showed she had called Dr. Czr 43 times and texted him 130 times during the period she was allegedly being sexually harassed.  Dr. Czr presented evidence that these five witnesses had cut and pasted their statements from Dr. Pena’s written statement.

The 5 witnesses

The five witnesses had previous grievances against Dr. Czr and ulterior motives. Dr. Nathalie Paolino, who was a friend and fellow intern of Dr. Pena, was also transferring to Walter Reed with Dr. Pena and is now living in the same apartment complex. Dr. Casey Danielsen, another intern and friend of Dr. Pena, committed federal prescription fraud when she illegally prescribed Dr. Pena Digoxin, a heart failure medication, so that Dr. Pena could give the medication to a family member. Dr. Robert Gayle, another intern who also sought for the removal of Dr. Czr for his congressional letter, was illegally prescribing Dr. Pena antidepressants during the time of the investigation. Dr. Gayle at this time did not have a medical license nor was he credentialed at his hospital to practice medicine independently. These three witnesses who claimed to have knowledge of Dr. Czr’s alleged harassing behavior were all voluntarily present at Dr. Czr’s house in November of 2008, during the time that Dr. Pena claimed she was allegedly being sexually harassed. This provocative video shows the personal and sexually explicit relationships between Dr. Pena and her witnesses. 

The fourth witness, Dr. Leticia (Iliana) Tiscareno-Grajeda, initially stated she had seen text messages that she considered to be sexually harassing but then recanted her statement during the investigation. Previously in March 2009, Dr. Czr had reprimanded Dr. Tiscareno-Grajeda for leaving work early and leaving her patients unattended. He had also reprimanded her for ordering additional fluids for a patient who needed fluids to be removed, a possible fatal mistake. Records showed that Dr. Czr requested that she be removed from his team for patient safety, but Dr. DeZee had denied his request.

The last witness was Ms. Palomarez, the program secretary, who had previously told Dr. Czr to resign in April 2008 because of this congressional letter.   If Dr. Czr would have remained as chief resident, then he would have been her direct supervisor.

After Colonel Baunchalk had substantiated her false sexual harassment claim, Dr. Czr was forcibly removed from starting his new position on June 30, 2009 (just 1 day prior to the start of his new position).  Dr. Juan Martinez-Ross was then awarded the position.  Captain (Dr.) Paul Bandelin, Dr. Czr’s chief resident at the time, and Dr. DeZee then issued a career-ending officer evaluation report (OER) to Dr. Czr on the final day of the evaluation period.  Just two weeks prior, Dr. Bandelin refused to speak to Dr. Czr about his evaluation.  Dr. Bandelin would never counsel nor speak to Dr. Czr about this negative evaluation.  Records show that there were no negative counseling documented in Dr. Czr’s record until after Dr. DeZee had received his congressional letter.

To justify this negative evaluation, Dr. DeZee falsified Dr. Czr’s record by creating several “delayed” memoranda for record.  A separate investigation into Dr. Czr’s officer evaluation report found that the fabricated documentation did not warrant a career-ending evaluation and was created only after Dr. DeZee and Dr. Bandelin became aware of his congressional letter.  Despite the findings of this investigation, the Department of Defense Inspector General refused to investigate Dr. DeZee and Dr. Bandelin for the federal crime of reprisals against a whistleblower.

During this same time period, Dr. Czr’s manuscript had been accepted for publication.  Dr. DeZee was a co-author on this manuscript as well as other physicians.  After Dr. DeZee issued this career-ending evaluation, he ordered Dr. Czr to forge the signatures of the other co-authors to meet the publication deadline.  According to reports, Dr. DeZee stated to Dr. Czr that forging signatures of co-authors was a common practice and that he himself had done it on his previous research projects.  Dr. Czr refused to obey his order and later withdrew the paper from publication. This manuscript would have been Dr. Czr’s first publication as a physician.  In response, Dr. DeZee began sending harassing emails to Dr. Czr demanding that he resubmit the manuscript or explain his reasons for withdrawing the manuscript.

Continued Abuse of Power and Violations of Privacy Act of 1974

After Colonel Baunchalk substantiated the sexual harassment claim, the leadership quickly attempted to transfer Dr. Czr to Korea.  Dr. Czr then obtained the military equivalent of an injunction.  In response to Dr. Czr’s injunction, Colonel Frank and Colonel Ney Gore, another hospital administrator, ordered that Dr. Czr report to the library for “accountability reasons.” Colonel Frank emailed Dr. Czr that he was not to be credentialed at this hospital as a staff physician.  Colonel Frank then requested that Dr. Czr review medical records for his department. When Dr. Czr refused because he was not credentialed at that hospital, Colonel Frank and Colonel Gore sought UCMJ charges of insubordination. When they failed to pursue this course, they punished Dr. Czr with extra duty in the Emergency Department without due process. They then placed Dr. Czr in a position staffed by physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

Dr. Czr filed an equal opportunity complaint.  During this investigation, Colonel Frank knowingly made several false statements to cover up his order that Dr. Czr report the library for “accountability reasons” when he stated that two other doctors who were also awaiting final adjudication of their cases had their own offices in hospital and were also expected to be at the hospital for accountability reasons. These other two physicians did not have their own offices and were not required to report to the hospital during their investigations.  Colonel Baunchalk took no disciplinary action against Colonel Frank for his false statements during a formal Army investigation.

In response to Dr. Czr’s equal opportunity complaint, Major (Dr.) Michael Cole, Dr. DeZee’s replacement had Dr. Czr removed from a military medical conference where Dr. Czr’s research had been accepted.  Dr. DeZee, Colonel Frank, Ms. Linda Palomarez, Dr. Cole, and Colonel Baunchalk then conspired to create a restraining order on Dr. Czr placing a distance between him and Dr. Pena during this military medical conference.  Two days before the conference, Dr. Czr received a phone call from his commander asking if he had violated his restraining order because “someone” had made a complaint.  Dr. Czr was in El Paso at the time and the conference was in San Antonio.  The conference had not started when Dr. Czr’s commander called him about this alleged violation of his restraining order.

Dr. Czr’s appeal was denied despite over 500 pages of evidence, photographs, and video.  Dr. Czr had made several Freedom of Information Act requests that Colonel Baunchalk and his lawyers have refused to comply or respond.  The Inspector General has refused to investigate citing that to pursue a whistleblower allegation the complainant must have a “perfect” performance record.  The IG used the fabricated “delayed” documentation from Dr. DeZee as the reason to not investigate Dr. Czr’s case.

Dr. Czr has reported to the US Army the following federal crimes and violations of Army Regulations:

Dr. James Baunchalk: reprisals, failure to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests, command influencing an investigation.

Dr. Kent DeZee: reprisals, research fraud, falsifying federal records, and harassment

Dr. Robert Gayle: practicing medicine without a license, illegally prescribing psychotropics, and making false statements in a sworn statement

Dr. Jennifer Marie Pena: sexual assault, making a false claim of sexual harassment, federal prescription fraud

Dr. Casey Danielsen: federal prescription fraud and making false statements in a sworn statement

Ms. Linda Palomarez: reprisals and making false statements in a sworn statement

Dr. Wayne T. Frank: abuse of power and rank, making false statements in a federal investigation, harassment, privacy act violations

Colonel Ney Gore: abuse of power and rank

Dr. Nathalie Paolino: making false statements in a sworn statement

Dr. Michael Cole: reprisals and privacy act violations

Colonel (retired) Mary Ancker: reprisals and privacy act violations

To date only Dr. Jennifer Pena is being investigated for sexual assault.  All other federal crimes have yet to investigated, according to Dr. Czr.

Dr. Czr still proudly serves in the US Army and looks forward to a long career in the Army.  He states that he and his family have suffered from the abuses and federal crimes of people who they once considered colleagues and friends.  Despite these injustices, he believes that the majority of the US Army is honorable.  He is hopeful that one day the above people will be held accountable for their federal crimes and unethical conduct.