Some key players out of reach in researching of nurse monitoring

The 'hard look' that independent auditor Brad Rafish said he took at the Oregon Board of Nursing's programs did not include interviews with the two Oregon Department of Justice attorneys who brought to light many of the most serious allegations about the board's activities.

Rafish said that during his investigation he spoke with Department of Justice Deputy Attorney General Pete Shepherd and asked for permission to interview Department of Justice lawyers Ellyn Sternfield and Rodney Hopkinson.

Rafish said Shepherd said he would arrange a meeting, but the meeting never took place and subsequent calls he made to Shepherd were not returned.

Shepherd, the No. 2 official in the attorney general's office, said Thursday night that he did receive a call from Rafish shortly before he went on vacation in mid-August and he failed to return the call either then or after he returned.

Asked on Friday to elaborate why he did not return Rafish's call, Shepherd wrote in an e-mail: 'I simply failed to do it and he failed to renew the inquiry.'

Shepherd is a key figure in the controversy surrounding the Board of Nursing. Shortly after the Portland Tribune ran its series revealing problems with the board, the Oregon Senate Committee on Public Health placed state oversight of the nursing board on its March agenda.

However, committee Chairman Bill Morrisette, D-Springfield, decided to postpone the Senate committee hearings when Shepherd came before the committee and announced that the Oregon Department of Justice was going to investigate board activities, with Shepherd leading the investigation, in what he said would be a 'full, open process.'

Shepherd said he would specifically look at the nurse monitoring program, a controversial program that allows nurses to continue working while they receive treatment for addictions.

Shepherd also said he would look at accusations from Sternfield and Hopkinson that the Board of Nursing did not cooperate with criminal justice authorities when nurses were suspected of committing crimes. Shepherd told the Senate committee he would report back in September.

Shepherd has yet to deliver a report to the committee. Friday, Shepherd said he no longer is looking into the nurse monitoring program. Instead, he said, he is confining his focus to 'a smaller piece of the overall picture, the way in which law enforcement and the board interact.'

Shepherd said he now expects to report to the Senate committee in October or November.

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