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DOX: Sworn testimony that a U.S. state was too afraid to take on the Church of Scientology

[Kim Poff and her attorney, Rachel Bussett]

What is it about the Church of Scientology that turns law enforcement and other government agencies into quivering cubes of human Jell-O?

How many times have we seen it? In 2009, the FBI launched an investigation of allegations of human trafficking at Scientology’s Sea Org bases. But after gathering reams of evidence from dozens of former Sea Org members, that investigation was dropped in 2010 without explanation. (We have a theory as to why the Justice Department lost its nerve.)

And in 2012, there seemed to be another golden opportunity for the government to take on Scientology. That July, a young woman named Stacy Murphy died at Narconon Arrowhead, Scientology’s drug rehab flagship operation, after the deaths of two other patients — Gabriel Graves and Hillary Holten — in a period of only nine months.

Narconon had long before been exposed as a front for Scientology itself. The rehab network advertises that it offers personalized drug counseling in a safe environment with medical personnel. But litigation had clearly established the truth, that Narconon centers offer no drug counseling but instead train patients in Scientology. The facilities, far from safe, had repeatedly been sued because they were rife with drugs and allegations of sex for drugs traded with staff, who weren’t medical personnel but were low-paid recent graduates of the program.

And now, even in a place like Oklahoma, the government could no longer turn a blind eye. With Narconon Arrowhead nominally licensed by the state’s lax Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the state sent in an inspector general named Kimberly Poff and two of her investigators, one named Michael DeLong, to find out what was happening at Narconon Arrowhead.


What they found horrified them. Poff, according to testimony you’re about to see, realized that in the early 1990s the state never should have licensed Narconon to open for business there to begin with. And they found multiple violations of state laws and regulations, and expected the state to act on their report and shut the place down.

But that’s not what happened. Poff was told by a superior to keep the report in “pending” status so that the state mental health agency wouldn’t have to make a decision on it. Why? Because the state was simply too afraid to take on Scientology, she testified.

For four years, we’ve been trying to get our hands on that report by Poff and DeLong, which has been used in numerous lawsuits against Narconon, but under seal.

Eleven months after Poff and DeLong submitted their report about Narconon Arrowhead, they were fired — at least in part, they believed, because they continued to be vocal about the Narconon report, which the state was sitting on. They then both sued the state for wrongful termination. By the time we learned about that and, along with the local Oklahoma press, wrote about it, Poff had started a new job at another state agency, the Department of Human Services. But after coverage of her lawsuit appeared, DHS fired her as well. And so she filed another lawsuit against that agency.

Those first lawsuits by Poff and Delong were dismissed on technical grounds that had nothing to do with their report about Narconon. But Poff’s second lawsuit, against DHS, continues, and it has a December 5 trial date. In the court file for that lawsuit, there were several pages from a deposition that Poff sat for in May.

Short of having Poff’s 2012 report on Narconon itself, this was a pretty good alternative. Poff has never given a press interview about what happened to her, but here was sworn testimony about what had happened to her and DeLong and their report.

We knew you’d want to see it.

We’ve pulled out the most important passages here, but we’ll also make the full court document available as well.

We’ve highlighted statements that we find especially important — and especially egregious. Remember, Narconon Arrowhead is still in business, even after the deaths of Gabriel Graves, Hillary Holten, and Stacy Murphy.

If Oklahoma doesn’t have the spine to do anything about it, who will?


Poff: My office became involved in an investigation regarding a facility close to McAlester called Narconon. There had been three deaths in that facility from 2011 until mid 2012. After the third death we began an investigation approximately August…. When it rose to a certain level it became an investigation, it was full blown, it was assigned to an investigator or something. So clearly a death being that we were the office involved with consumer abuse, neglect and mistreatment, we absolutely needed to know what was going on. So that was an investigation…. And we had been watching the situation since the first death in 2011. That occurred in an area of the facility we did not have authority over, because it’s not certified by the department. So we didn’t have the ability to go in as investigators. And then the third death did occur in an area that we certified. So we had authority and we began the investigation…. The results of that investigation were multiple findings of violation of state law and administrative code, mental health law, and administrative code. And my reports were completed in September of 2012. And we were very vocal about those findings and about our belief. And I’m saying “our,” because my investigators were involved but 1 was the one that wrote all of the reports, knowing it was very high profile. It was very — I hate to say volatile. There was concern about the facility, the members of Scientology, because that’s what it’s based on and — by the Department. And, so, anyway, I was taking the responsibility of being the leader on that, putting my name on the reports. Making sure it was correct and kind of keeping the investigators off that by name. But I’m saying “our,” because I took two of my investigators and one of our facility directors who is a nurse as a medical expert into that facility. And we all were very adamant that it was dangerous and needed to be closed.

Q. OK. And you said you were very vocal with your report. Tell me what you mean by that.

Poff: Well, what I mean by that is that I — my relationship with leadership I felt like was very good. It had always been very open. And so I met with Terri White biweekly and Durand biweekly. So every other week I was having contact with the top two members of leadership. They knew everything that I was doing. And we would discuss cases that I had pending. So they kind of — they knew where I was at. If I was about to turn something in. If they had received something, had any questions. And we would literally go through a list I brought in to each of them every time on what was happening and where we were on things. So they — they were always getting verbal information from me about my cases. It was not our practice and our process for me to provide — I would tell you it is — it appears to be supported, not supported or inconclusive based on the evidence. I did not weigh in on what I then thought should happen. So it’s not like my reports ever said, and they should — you know. My reports on paper did not ever give recommendations. That was not my job. But we often talked about them. It was — the dynamic was set up from the very beginning that, you know — OK. Yeah, this is bad, but it’s not that bad or there’s not — you know, we were having those discussions. So later on folks that were going to make those types of recommendations had a good feel for what had happened.


Q. OK.

Poff: And we had multiple meetings about this case. And the entire leadership team, our provider certification, our director of provider certification, our legal counsel, all of the — the commissioner, the chief operating officer, our deputy commissioners, everyone at one point in time was in a room having a discussion about this case.

Q. OK. In your report I assume you named names of people that you found were derelict in their duties —

Poff: Yes, sir.

Q. –or contributed to whatever the issues were?

Poff: Yes, sir.

Q. And then you said you completed your report in 2012?

Poff: Yes, sir.

Q. In what month, do you recall?

Poff: September. Now I will say this, there were additional — this case truly was like no other that had ever taken place in the department. Certainly under my purview. But I can say absolutely had not ever occurred like that before. There were finalized reports. I turned in what I considered to be my final report in September 2012. There were ultimately changes made on that report made by me, I believe around January of 2013, which included an expanded scope that we had never done before. I was primarily involved in Chapter 15, which is consumer abuse, neglect, and mistreatment, as far as the consumer side. And then DMH polices, if they were strictly employee misconduct and sometimes they bleed over. We expanded that to include in these findings Chapter 18, which was the certifications policy. And I had not ever been involved in those types of findings before. So when we expanded them, the report did change. I hope that helps.

Q. OK. All right. So you submit your report to Durand Crosby and Terri White —

Poff: Correct.

Q. — in September of 2012?

Poff: Yes.


Q. And you’re fired effectively August 23rd of 2013, almost a year later, 11 months later?

Poff: Correct. Keeping in mind that case had not closed. It continued to be high on the priority list. Multiple people meeting about it. It did not — the conversations never ended. It continued to be, like I said, I hate to use the word “volatile,” but it was a very — it created a lot of angst. It created a lot of work. The advocate’s office was involved. The provider certification’s office was involved. Legal was involved. It had — it was not over. It wasn’t over. The AG’s office at this point had been called in to take a look at things. In fact, the Department of Mental Health was trying to have the AG’s office take it over. Again, so much of it surrounding the idea that there was potential that Narconon — that Narconon would sue the Department of Mental Health and they wanted to side-step that. And, again, in the middle was our being vocal about that. And —

Q. When you say our, who do you mean?

Poff: Again, the two investigators — primarily myself.

Q. And when you say vocal, what does that mean?

Poff: Continuing the discussion about it. You know, it needs to be closed. This is dangerous. Look at how many violations there are. We need to be doing something. Again, unlike any — unlike any other. So, I understand the need to make sure that we determined everything correctly and all of those things, however.

Q. Did Mr. Crosby or Ms. White ever say to you, you know, we’re not going to pursue closing the facility or ending our contract with Narconon because, and give you reasons?

Poff: In those words, no. Very clearly in the course of all of those conversations was the discussion of their fear of being sued by Narconon.

Q. OK.

Poff: It was a topic in several of the meetings with all of leadership, with us as groups. I mean, every — everyone knew that concern…. Our director of provider certification was at the Department of Mental Health in 1992, I believe, when Narconon, in fact, attempted to sue or threatened to sue the Department of Mental Health over that particular facility. They didn’t want to certify them initially. I mean, Kirstie Alley came to town. There was press about it. It was a really big deal. That was talked about a lot. There was — you know, there — they had side-stepped a lawsuit once before. We don’t want to get into that again. This isn’t going to be good. The department doesn’t have enough money to sustain a lawsuit from this facility. It wasn’t like I was assuming. It was very clear the fear was about being sued by Narconon.

Q. If that report had been done on any other facility, would it have been reported as far as the OIG goes on the board report as completed?

Poff: Yes. It was reported exactly like that. Well, initially.

Q. OK. And you were instructed to —

Poff: Change it to “pending.”

Q. To “pending.’ Who instructed you to do that?

Poff: Durand Crosby.

Q. Why?

Poff: They didn’t want to show it as completed because they didn’t want to make a decision.

Q. They didn’t want to make a decision about what?

Poff: About the findings that we had against Narconon.

Q. Did they tell you that they didn’t want to go up against Narconon?

Poff: Oh, it was very clear in all of those meetings. I mean, they didn’t say that on the board nine report. But they wanted the board to think it was pending. They didn’t want it to show as completed. And once it was completed it would go to provider cert and an action would need to be taken. And they were trying — they were at the very least trying to slow down that train and figure out what could be done with it. It went to the — they tried to punt it to the AG’s office and the AG’s office actually was a little bit smart about it and punted it back.

Q. And so was it your understanding that the director of ODMH and the chief operating officer of ODMH intentionally slowed down the report on the Narconon investigation because they as an agency of the State of Oklahoma did not want to take on the Church of Scientology?

Poff: I do believe that.

Q. Do you believe that is why you were fired from ODMH?

Poff: I believe it was a big factor, because I remained vocal. What’s happening, why isn’t anything being done? Why are we not doing this the way it always was done? Why are we not handling this? And it wasn’t like I didn’t have the ability to do that. We were all still there and all still sort of in that spin. So they continued to hear our vocalizations. And, in fact, I actually made the statement once, I said, someday someone will ask me and I will need to tell them. And what I meant by that is exactly kind of what’s happening now is, were you done, yes. Were there findings, yes. Did they do anything, no. I said, I will need to tell — I’m the inspector general, I am the one that is supposed to be upholding these rules. It’s been — you gave me the authority to go in, tell you when people we certify are doing horrible things in violation of these rules. And I’m screaming this at you. And they needed that to stop.

Q. They needed you to stop screaming this —

Poff: They needed me to stop.

Q. OK. Was Michael DeLong supporting you in the pushing for that disclosure?

Poff: Absolutely. He was part of the investigation on the second.

Q. Were your findings that Narconon violated Oklahoma statutes and regulations with regard to its treatment facilities?

Poff: Absolutely. Multiple violations.

Q. And that that caused or contributed to the cause of death of Stacy Murphy?

Poff: And two others, yes.

Q. OK. And do you believe that Terri White and Durand Crosby did not want that information to get out?

Poff: Yes. Yeah. That’s not good. We should never have certified them, and I brought that. I highlighted that once we began that expansion of the rules in Chapter 18. Narconon actually never met the standard in Chapter 18 to be certified in the first place, which probably went all the way back to the threat of the 1992 lawsuit, when they threatened to sue the department over not being certified, so we certified them. And I distinctly remember standing in Dewayne Moore’s office with our book of administrative code, our policy manual in my hand saying, they never — they never met the standards to begin with. They shouldn’t have been — and so knew. We had an internal problem. We certified them and shouldn’t have. They didn’t want any of that to come out.

Q. OK. So the State of Oklahoma was actively trying to suppress that information?

Poff: I believe so.

Q. And then prior to the issues with Narconon had you ever had any problems with your employment with ODMH?

Poff: No.

Q. Had you ever been disciplined in any way?

Poff: No.

Q. OK. Had you ever been written up?

Poff: No.

Q. Had they ever told you that you were doing shoddy reports?

Poff: Absolutely not.


POFF v. Oklahoma DHS: Poff Deposition by Tony Ortega on Scribd


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,948 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 94 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,157 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 1,931 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,705 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,051 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,545 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,585 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,297 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 823 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,912 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,052 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,372 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,347 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 703 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,005 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,111 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,514 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,387 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 968 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,473 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,717 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,826 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on November 29, 2017 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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