Kimberly Poff was Inspector General at Oklahoma’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and had worked for the agency for more than 5 years and the state for more than 22 years when she and her employee Michael DeLong were asked to investigate recent deaths at Scientology’s flagship facility of its Narconon drug rehab network, Narconon Arrowhead. [UPDATE: DeLong is also suing, and we have his petition, below.]
According to her legal complaint, “As a result of their investigation, Ms. Poff and Mr. DeLong determined that the Narconon facility violated numerous state laws and recommended to leadership that the facility be shut down.” Her finalized report on the investigation was submitted by the fall of 2012.
But Poff alleges that her bosses attempted to “hide the findings” of her report by telling her to advise the department’s board of directors that “the report and investigation was still pending.”
Why? Because, Poff alleges, her bosses “buried the report, recommendations and findings of Ms. Poff & Mr. DeLong because the Department did not want to get involved in litigation involving the Church of Scientology.”
Poff says she complained about that, and she believes her principled stand was one of the reasons she was fired: “Ms. Poff & Mr. DeLong were very vocal in 2012 and 2013 about their objection to ODMHSAS’s decision to bury the report and Ms. Poff believes her objection to the decision to bury the findings of the Narconon investigation directly relate to her termination by the Department.”
Specifically, Poff says she was investigating the 2011 death of Gabriel Graves and the 2012 deaths of Hillary Holten and Stacy Murphy when she “determined that Narconon violated numerous state laws and recommended that the facility be shut down by” the state.
She alleges that the leadership of the department “was afraid to take on Narconon in litigation because there is significant financial backing of the facility by the church of Scientology.”
She’s also suing for sex and age discrimination, and alleges that another reason she was fired was related to her knowledge of sexual harassment complaints made against a supervisor. We’ve put in a call to Poff’s attorney, Rachel Bussett, and hope to get more detail soon.
Here are the petitions [NOW UPDATED WITH EXHIBITS]…
And here’s Michael DeLong’s petition…
After news of the three deaths at Narconon Arrowhead in 2011-2012, criminal investigations were started by county and state agencies which seemed to have gone nowhere. A new state law was passed to increase regulation of the facility, but that also appeared to have little effect.
In June, we broke the news that a grand jury had been empanelled to hear evidence of insurance fraud at the rehab center. We’re still waiting to see if that results in indictments.
UPDATE: We talked to Gary Richardson, who is handling ten different lawsuits against Narconon Arrowhead, including wrongful death lawsuits for the families of Gabriel Graves, Hillary Holten, and Stacy Murphy. He tells us that he has asked the state of Oklahoma to turn over Kim Poff and Micheal DeLong’s final investigative report which, Poff says, was suppressed by her superiors. The state has opposed Richardson’s motion, and he says a judge has scheduled a hearing on September 23. (Most likely, however, even if the judge orders the state to give the report to Richardson, it will be kept under seal and the public may not get to see it.)
We also spoke with Rachel Bussett, Kim Poff’s attorney. She says that as far as she knows, the investigative report by Poff and DeLong was never delivered to the mental health department’s board, and the department has said that no further investigation of Narconon is being done.
We asked how Kim Poff is faring since she was terminated by the mental health department. Bussett says that she’s doing well as an investigator for another state agency — the Department of Human Services.
“It proves that she’s competent and qualified, just as we’ve been saying,” Bussett tells us.
She says that Poff was motivated to file the lawsuit because she wanted to see justice done for the families of the patients who died at Narconon Arrowhead.
“When three people die in a short time, that’s concerning. And I don’t care if there’s a religious component or if it’s state-based or whatever. If people are dying, that’s a concern,” Bussett says. “Our state agencies should be standing up for the citizens of Oklahoma.”
Posted by Tony Ortega on August 19, 2014 at 11:15
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