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I Sit And Look Out: Political games end position of longtime public service

The members of the state Board for Professional Medical Conduct are appointed to three-year terms by the governor. In the years I served on the board, I was reappointed on schedule with never an indication that politics was a problem. The reappointment occurred without my knowing about it until I was told. It seemed to be almost automatic.

Until one year. We had had the Carey and Cuomo administrations and then George Pataki became governor. Sometime during one of his terms, someone somewhere in state government decided these positions were worth turning into some kind of political appointment system.

I was now retired from the corporation which had approved my service on the board. My state senator then was Republican Serphin Maltese. He was aware I was not a member of his political party. Nevertheless, he had asked me to be a member of two of his citizen advisory committees and I agreed.

One day, his chief aide called me and asked if I wanted to be reappointed to the Board for Professional Medical Conduct. I answered in the affirmative and was reappointed, as usual. No further questions were asked. The process went back to what had been normal for many years.

Until 2009. In that wonderful year of state government disruption, our governor, thanks to the hubris of Eliot Spitzer, decided that members of the board should file many documents listing their work, affiliations, sources of income, etc. Those of us serving on the board were to be subjected to the same kind of scrutiny as those running for public office or seeking a job in state government. The scrutiny applied equally to doctors and public members.

I sent in the completed forms to the executive chambers at the end of December. To date, I have not received an acknowledgment of receipt of this mound of paperwork. Where necessary, a notary public had acknowledged my signature.

Earlier in December, I received a telephone call from a state trooper asking me to come into a police station “to answer some questions.” I informed him I would be happy to answer any and all questions but in my home. He said he would check with his superiors. I have not heard from him since.

At the end of January, I received a similar call from another state trooper, with the same request to come in to answer some questions. I gave the same answer to him. I have not heard from him since.

The following week I learned that my “lack of cooperation” with the state police meant I would not be reappointed to the board. This information was conveyed to me in a brief e-mail message from the chair of the board, who is a physician.

It turns out I was accused of refusing to submit to fingerprinting. This had never been mentioned in the course of the two telephone calls. Had the question been raised, I would have answered, as I had before, that I would be willing to have this done in my home. I assume portable fingerprint kits are still available.

On the face of it, of course, the accusation was absurd. Why would I fill out a huge amount of paperwork seeking reappointment and then throw it away after so many years of service in such a manner?

The accusation was a lie the chair did not bother to challenge.

Next: Stealing a reputation.

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