Chiropractic Board hit by pair of lawsuits

The state Board of Chiropractic Examiners has been hit with a pair of lawsuits this month. One of these comes from a current employee of the board, while another was filed by one of the state’s leading chiropractic associations.

Meanwhile, last week the board confirmed the departure of their longtime chiropractic consultant, Maggie Craw. Chiropractic groups within the state had been fighting for years to have Craw removed. She joined the board in November, 2002.

Members of the Chiropractic Board tried to fire then-executive director Catherine Hayes in March. These newer members, all appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, have been in open warfare with Hayes, Craw and other allied staff members ever since.

One of the lawsuits names Craw specifically. The suit, filed by Laguna Niguel attorney Roger Calton on August 9 in state Superior Court in Sacramento, alleges that Craw, former board executive director Catherine Hayes and Brian Crume, an independent reviewer hired by the board, too improper action against his client, chiropractor Brian Meredith. The review of his work was “negligently prepared and intentionally damaging to the Plaintiff” even though the complaint “had no merit,” according to the complaint.

Calton lays out numerous specific charges against Craw: that she had a significant conflict of interest because she was doing work both for private insurers and the State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF); that Craw “did not meet the minimum qualifications” to hold her position; and that she hired Crume to review Meredith’s case despite the fact that they were rivals who practiced in the same area. In May, Calton filed an official compliant with the Fair Political Practices Commission against both Hayes and Craw which laid out many similar complaints.

Craw’s departure was made official last Thursday at the board’s meeting in San Diego. The board released two organizational charts, one marked “July 2, 2007” and the other “August, 2007.” The charts had one difference–the disappearance of Craw from the box for the part-time position of chiropractic consultant.

“We understand that she has resigned,” Calton said. “As a practical matter, she had not been there for some time.”

According to several people familiar with the situation, Craw stopped coming to work at some point last month, but continued getting a paycheck while she used up her accumulated vacation. Her last official day was August 10. Calton and others said that she had reportedly moved to New Mexico; this was backed up by online records.

The World Chiropractic Alliance (WCA) reported Craw’s resignation on their website earlier this month. The Alliance had been seeking her removal for well over a year, alleging that she took abusive and often unwarranted actions against chiropractors.

The chair of the seven-member Chiropractic Board, Dr. Richard Tyler, echoed these thoughts in a July editorial on the WCA website. Tyler did not refer to Craw by name in “The California horror story,” but said that the person in the “consultant” position Craw occupied was “totally unqualified.”

“Good riddance,” said Charles Davis, president of the International Chiropractors Association of California, of Craw’s departure. He characterized her time with the board as a “reign of terror.”

The second lawsuit, also in Superior Court, was filed on August 15 by a current employee of the board, David Hinchee. It names the board and Hayes. Hinchee was assistant executive director late last year, while Hayes was executive director. Hayes demoted Hinchee in February; in March, the board demoted Hayes after failing in an attempt to fire her.

Hinchee alleges that Hayes took numerous actions against him violating his rights, according to the complaint. These include preventing him from interacting with board members, as required by his job; that she lied about his work performance and whether he showed up on time; that she ordered junior staff not to take orders from him; and that she lied in filing an adverse action complaint against him; and that she retaliated against him for filing a Fair Employment and Housing complaint naming her.

Gaspar Garcia III, Hinchee’s attorney, said that the suit has been in the works for months, but that they first had to satisfy several legal requirements first. One of these was to file a complaint with the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board and get it rejected. That board ruled on June 19 that it would not hear Hinchee’s claim, making him eligible to file a lawsuit against his employer.

The board’s acting executive director, Brian Stiger, did not reply to a call seeking comment for this story. Hayes and Craw have both said on previous occasions that they would not answer questions posed by the Capitol Weekly.

Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles, is carrying a bill he said would reign in the board members, who he said have engaged in numerous improper actions. SB 801 would place the board under the Department of Consumer Affairs, among several other changes. It passed out of the Senate in June, but was moved to the suspense file in the Assembly on Wednesday.

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