Monday, January 30, 2012

Cleveland Clinic Won't Hire Smokers, But Has No Problem Hiring Suspected White Collar Criminals

The Cleveland Clinic will not hire a smoker - or even someone attempting to quit by using nicotine replacement therapy - because of the supposed principle that it sends a bad message. However, this employer has no problem hiring a suspected white collar criminal who is costing the taxpayers in his former state tens of thousands of dollars to defend him from criminal charges.

According to an article in the Kansas City Star, the Cleveland Clinic has hired Tom Thornton, the ex-CEO of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, who left his former position in disgrace after being criminally investigated and having to hire a high-profile white collar criminal defense lawyer.

According to a report from Kansas Watchdog: "Tom Thornton's laptop was deliberately erased prior to an examination of the records it held."

That audit, according to the Kansas City Star article: "faulted Thornton for destroying documents, misusing public funds for personal expenses, and creating an uncomfortable work environment by having an office romantic relationship with a woman he hired and later married."

The audit, according to Kansas Watchdog, also faulted Thornton for:
  • "Failure to communicate information to the board of directors regarding his personal relationship with KBA staff member Lindsay Holwick, whom he married in January 2011 (page 82)
  • Removal of content from his KBA laptop computer after his resignation (page 100);
  • Travel to interview for his current position in Cleveland, Ohio, on a plane ticket purchased by KBA (page 112); and
  • Personal use and gifting of a KBA-owned painting (page 110)."
Moreover, according to the Kansas City Star, there was forensic evidence of the use of Thorton's work laptop computer for the viewing of pornographic web sites: "Auditors found some file extensions and data consistent with pornography, the audit said."

According to that article: "When Thornton resigned from the authority on April 13, seven days after filing his letter, he retained possession of his work computer. When he returned it on April 25, “Forensic analysis of Thornton’s KBA-owned computer indicated that information had been removed from the computer, essentially all of the user-created content had been deleted, and that the free space had been wiped making the recovery of deleted items impossible,” the BKD report said. Programs to delete and electronically shred documents had been run on April 21, 22 and 23, the audit said. Thornton admitted in an August interview with the auditors that he had wiped the computer."

Also according to the article: "Former Kansas Bioscience Authority CEO Tom Thornton knew he was under criminal investigation and asked the agency for personal legal representation at least two weeks before he electronically shredded documents on his laptop computer, according to a letter obtained by The Eagle. In a letter dated April 7, Thornton asked the KBA board to pay for his personal legal fees and indicated that he had retained James Eisenbrandt, a Prairie Village lawyer who specializes in white-collar criminal defense. Eisenbrandt is best known in Wichita for representing former Westar Energy CEO David Witting on federal charges of looting the utility. The KBA, a state-funded agency, agreed to pay Thornton’s legal bills and has so far spent $53,671 on his defense, including about $1,800 to fly two lawyers to meet with Thornton in Ohio, where he is now employed in the Innovations division at the Cleveland Clinic."

Because the Kansas Bioscience Authority is a state entity, the taxpayers of Kansas may have to foot the bill for Thornton's legal defense. The Kansas governor, however, is not happy with this, and is calling on the Authority to suspend all payments for Thornton's legal defense and to recover expenses already covered:

"Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration weighed in Saturday on Thornton’s legal fees and questioned why taxpayers should have to foot the bill for Thornton’s personal legal expenses. “As good stewards of Kansas taxpayer monies, the KBA board should suspend all payments to Thornton’s attorneys and then pursue all legal means possible to seek a maximum recovery of taxpayer dollars from him," said an e-mail statement from Sherriene Jones-Sontag, the governor’s spokeswoman. “I just think most Kansas taxpayers are going to find these expenses repulsive,” said Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, who has led legislative efforts to investigate the KBA since last year. “It’s a colossal waste of taxpayer funds. The salary he earned, at $1.8 million (over 4 1/2 years) should have covered his legal expenses.” Wagle also said the expenses paid so far could be just the beginning. “There haven’t even been any charges filed yet,” she said."

The Rest of the Story

These are apparently the principles that the Cleveland Clinic stands for in its hiring policies. Under no circumstances will the Cleveland Clinic hire a smoker or a nicotine user because it sends a "bad example," but hiring a suspected criminal is perfectly fine.

While a smoker would have to wait six months after quitting smoking in order to prove that he or she did indeed quit before being hired by the Cleveland Clinic, a suspected criminal apparently has to prove nothing, and is welcomed with open arms. Shouldn't Thornton also have to wait six months to reapply, after having proven that he committed no crimes?

In reality, the Cleveland Clinic ban on hiring smokers only applies to "suspected smokers" because the Clinic cannot prove that these individuals actually smoke. They can only prove that they use nicotine, which could have been in the form of nicotine replacement therapy. They will not, however, take the person's word for it.

In contrast, if you are a suspected criminal, the Cleveland Clinic will apparently take your word that you are not guilty. They do not require proof of your innocence.

The rest of the story, then, is that the Cleveland Clinic will not hire suspected smokers, but it will hire suspected criminals.

And if you are a suspected smoker, you have to prove that you are not actually a smoker by waiting six months and providing a negative urine test. But if you are a suspected criminal, there is apparently no need to prove anything. They'll simply take your word for it. You apparently won't be turned away from the Cleveland Clinic unless and until you are hauled away to prison.

They apparently have a trusting relationship with their job applicants, unless they think those applicants might be smokers.

So much for the principle of hiring only employees who will set a good example. Unless the Cleveland Clinic considers suspected white collar crime, suspicion of having relationships with employees under your supervision, suspicion of destroying possible criminal evidence, suspicion of misuse of state funds, and suspected use of work computers for viewing pornography to be good examples of personal behavior.

(Thanks to Sheila Martin for the tip.)

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