As readers of this column may be aware by now, The Examiner has followed for several months the story of three Upper East Tennessee nurse practitioners whose licenses were initially revoked in a “show trial” hearing of the Tennessee Board of Nursing where only one member of the board was physically present in the room while the other members of the board called in by telephone-and not all of those did. Some had their calls dropped in the midst of the so-called hearing-one where the nurses in question weren’t allowed to present evidence or witnesses in their defense that likely would have proven their innocence of charges that their professional actions led to patient deaths. The nurses maintained their innocence then, and still do today.
That innocence is ultimately why the nurses were exonerated and their licenses restored to them. When they didn’t feel that they got a fair hearing the first time around, they did what any informed citizen would do, they went to State Representatives who might be able to help them get the full hearing they deserved. Nurse Preactitioner Bob Reynolds, along with his colleagues Tina Killebrew and David Stout went to Representatives Dale Ford (R-Jonesborough) and Tony Shipley (R-Kingsport) to help them get a hearing, and what ultimately resulted was their exoneration with the full knowledge of then-Commissioner of Health Susan Cooper and Governor Bill Haslam’s Legislative Liason Dale Kelley. Neither Cooper nor Kelley remain in their positions today, and neither does anyone remotely associated with this case.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has engaged in a witch-hunt of Representatives Shipley and Ford, and have so far yielded nothing that could touch either man (and they won’t). In the meantime, the effort to get to the truth about why these medical professionals’ lives have been ruined may come to a head. The Examiner has received word from a source close to the situation that Bob Reynolds, who gave us his personal story in this space, plans to file a formal complaint against the TBI and all of those involved in the false accusations against he and his colleagues. If Reynolds does this, Governor Haslam and his Department of Health will likely receive copies of the complaint, and would have to give an answer as to who knew what about this case and how Mr. Reynolds and his fellow professionals were exonerated, and when it was that they knew it.
We may see a textbook case of David against Goliath in a test of how limited the police power of the State can be.