Macon State presidentÂ’s medical records sought in lawsuit

awomack@macon.comsFebruary 1, 2010 

Lawyers for a former Macon State College employee suing the Board of Regents have requested medical records, calendars and other documents related to college president David Bell.

Elizabeth Denise Caldon, Bell’s former administrative assistant, filed a wrongful termination lawsuit under the Georgia Whistleblower Act in March 2009. Caldon maintains she was given the option to resign or be fired in September 2008 after a series of events in which she refused to comply with orders to record false information in official records about Bell’s attendance and leave.

The Board of Regents has admitted Caldon was terminated for insubordination, but denies allegations of wrongdoing. Lawyers for the board have refused to release the medical information, saying the records are confidential and irrelevant, according to court filings.

Caldon’s lawyer, Christopher Moorman, argues the medical records are necessary because they provide the dates Bell was treated, according to a motion filed Jan. 25.

“Based on the allegations, the accuracy of information recorded in Bell’s leave forms is squarely at issue in this case,” Moorman wrote.

The information requested could confirm whether Bell was at work at certain times and whether information recorded in official leave records is accurate, according to court records.

Caldon and Moorman have requested records of appointment dates for Bell’s visits to medical and mental health providers. No objections have been filed by the providers.

The requests do not seek “substantive medical records” or information about Bell’s diagnoses, just dates, according to court records.

Lawyers for the Board of Regents have refused to hand over the information, even though Caldon and her lawyer have agreed that the documents could be funneled through lawyers for the board who could redact non-date information, according to a legal brief.

Lawyers for the board have argued the request is too broad and the information requested isn’t limited to the relevant time period.

They also argue Moorman failed to comply with statutory provisions that required Bell be served a copy of the request. Bell learned of the requests after being contacted by one of the doctors. His attorneys didn’t receive copies of the request until after contacting Moorman, according to court records.

The case is still in the discovery phase, said Russ Willard, spokesman for the Georgia Attorney General’s Office. Staff from the office represent The Board of Regents in the lawsuit.

The discovery phase is a time during which lawyers for each side of a lawsuit trade information and documents with the ability to put witnesses under oath for depositions. Discovery ends May 1, Moorman said.

No trial date has been set.

Kimberly Ballard-Washington, associate vice chancellor for legal affairs for the University System, declined to comment, citing the pending case.

Caldon worked for Macon State for about 15 years, 10 as Bell’s assistant.

When offered the option to either resign or be fired, Caldon signed a prepared resignation form. Within hours, she rescinded her resignation, according to the court filing.

The lawsuit alleges college employees ignored Caldon’s request and changed her termination date.

Before filing the lawsuit, Caldon requested her firing be reviewed by the Board of Regents and was told her appeal would be presented at the body’s November 2008 meeting. She received a letter saying the case was presented and the board upheld Bell’s decision, according to the lawsuit.

But she later had conversations with two members of the board who said the case wasn’t presented, said Harlan Miller, the lawyer who initially filed the lawsuit on Caldon’s behalf.

The lawsuit initially named Bell, Macon State College vice presidents John Cole and Levy Youmans, University of Georgia Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr., University System Vice Chancellor J. Burns Newsome and University System Chief Operating Officer Rob Watts.

The case against the individual defendants was dismissed without prejudice by a judge’s order Aug. 19, 2009.

The lawsuit also contains alleged concerns about Bell’s mental decline” and “improper” conduct.

Caldon alleges she was asked to make “deceptive travel arrangements” on Bell’s behalf and that she objected to potential financial conflicts of interest pertaining to Bell’s compensation, according to the lawsuit.

In addition to compensation for lost wages, retirement benefits and other damages, Caldon wants her job back — or a position at another nearby institution.

Information from The Telegraph’s archives was used in this report.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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