Patients and colleagues of Allen Greiner made impassioned pleas to the Johnson County Commission on his behalf last week. But in the end, it wasn’t enough to ensure his appointment as Johnson County’s public health adviser.
The commission voted 5-2 against appointing the University of Kansas Medical Center doctor to become the next county health officer. Instead, the commission will consider Joseph LeMaster, also affiliated with KU Med.
Greiner’s appointment stalled two months ago after anti-abortion group Kansans for Life raised objections. Mary Kay Culp, executive director of the group, said the concerns were about Greiner’s mentorship and support of another doctor she viewed as incompetent. That doctor, Kris Neuhaus, had provided second opinions for the late George Tiller for late-term abortions.
Greiner provided testimony on Neuhaus’ behalf at the 2011 hearing over whether the state should revoke her license. Much of that hearing revolved around the adequacy of her record-keeping system on the treatment of some young patients. At that time, former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline had been seeking medical records on abortions performed in the state.
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The Kansas Board of Healing Arts revoked the license, but a district court judge overturned the ruling.
Commissioners heard emphatic and at times emotional testimony on Greiner’s behalf at the meeting. Paula Zaiss of Kansas City related a 16-year history of care for a variety of serious health and family issues.
“I was very upset when I first heard of this delay and the attempt to disgrace him (Greiner) in this way,” she said.
Greiner helped her through battles with fibromyalgia, depression, invasive breast cancer and a stroke, Zaiss said. “I am not unique or special. You can count hundreds, possibly thousands of patients, who have experienced the same level of care from Dr. Greiner,” she said. “How could he not be the most formidable and highly qualified medical director for Johnson County?”
Phil Yates of Shawnee also praised Greiner’s dedication to patient care. Greiner was Yates’ doctor for six years. “What you’re getting is a throwback,” he said of Greiner. “I mean, he makes house calls and you don’t always get a bill for it. This guy is a doctor. He would be a wonderful choice,” for health officer, Yates said.
Christina Pacheco of Kansas City, Kan., and Myrietta Talawyma of Kansas City, Mo., also told the commission of Greiner’s dedication to the American Indian community. Pacheco said Greiner regularly donates his time conducting screening clinics at the yearly pow-wows held by the Center for American Indian Community Health at KU Med.
Lougene Marsh, who originally put Greiner up for the $40,000-a-year post, said Greiner’s emphasis on public health, his experience in a similar position with Wyandotte County for 10 years and his success in writing grant proposals made him the top candidate. Marsh is director of the county department of health and environment.
Seats in the commission hearing room were filled mostly with Greiner’s supporters, but Greiner was not present. Nor were any speakers representing Kansans for Life.
Culp said later she did not want to create the wrong impression about the group’s reasons for objecting to Greiner. “I could have packed the room with activists but decided not to because it really isn’t an abortion issue per se,” she said.
In an email, she later clarified: “This wasn’t about abortion, it was about Dr. Greiner’s fitness as potential head doctor of Johnson County Health.”
The commission’s decision to reject Greiner’s appointment was “the right one for the county and the health of its citizens,” Culp wrote.
Greiner could not be reached for this story, but said in the past Neuhaus’ records were adequate and she was a qualified applicant for the spot at KU Med.
In the end, only commissioners Ed Peterson and Steve Klika voted for Greiner’s appointment.
After describing himself to listeners in the hearing room as pro-life, Klika said politics should not play a part in appointments of county staff. “We set up procurement policies that are created to avoid political influence coming into (the appointments) in order to get the best services and people to help us run this government,” he said. “So I really get concerned when we politicize this process.”
“I don’t want to see us malign this gentleman,” Klika said.
Jason Osterhaus, who originally brought the Kansans for Life objections to light, said the criticism administrative law judge Edward Gaschler leveled at Greiner’s testimony should be taken seriously.
“Dr. Greiner chose to go up to Topeka and testify on behalf of a doctor who did not do her duty on a 10-year-old rape victim,” Osterhaus said. Part of Gaschler’s opinion dealt with records of physical and mental evaluations of an unnamed girl in 2003.
Peterson said the district court “recognized and respected” Greiner’s expert opinion on Neuhaus’ record keeping even though Gaschler did not. “I just don’t think that rises to the level to override the overall benefit of qualities and qualifications this doctor brings to this job,” he said.
Commission Chairman Ed Eilert cast his “no” vote as an attempt to avoid future distractions that Greiner’s appointment would cause. “My vote is in no way a negative reflection on the medical skills of Dr. Greiner,” he said. “My concern is that actions away from the specific delivery of medical treatment will continue to be a distraction to the mission and important work of our public health department.”
The commission will begin considering LeMaster at its meeting Thursday.