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October 15, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Medical Board

  |   Video
  • The executive director of the Arizona Medical Board was fired over the weekend. Lisa Wynn was fired following a report by the Arizona Ombudsman-Citizens’ Aide that revealed the board violated rules and laws when giving new doctors credentials. Arizona Republic reporter Mary K. Reinhart, who has been following the story, will tell us more.
  • Mary K. Reinhart - Reporter, Arizona Republic
Category: Medical/Health   |   Keywords: arizona, medical board, violation,

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Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The executive director of the Arizona Medical Board was fired over the weekend after a report was released that accused the board of violating a number of state laws. "Arizona Republic" reporter Mary K. Reinhart has been following the story. Good to have you here. This is somewhat complicated, at least involved. Let's try to get as much as we can done. Let's start with the Arizona Medical Board. What is that?

Mary K. Reinhart: It's the regulatory agency that licenses doctors, M.D.s, in the state of Arizona. There are many licensing boards, this one licenses M.D.s. Its members are appointed by the governor. It's called a 9010 agency, nearly all of its operating money comes from the fees that the doctors pay in order to be licensed or to have their licenses renewed, which they have to have every two years.

Ted Simons: Why was executive director Lisa Wynn fired?

Mary K. Reinhart: The board fired Lisa Wynn on a split vote Saturday, a hastily called unusual Saturday board meeting because according to the chairman who spoke, he felt that they had -- The board had lost the public's trust based on a 192-page ombudsman's report released last week that showed that the executive director was in violation of dozens of rules and laws in her efforts to speed licensing. This is what the ombudsman found.

Ted Simons: More information on the report here. Who is the ombudsman? Who did the report, and why was the report done?

Mary K. Reinhart: Well, this report followed an earlier report. We have to go back a couple years, which is one of the defenses Lisa Wynn put forth, that some of these things have been around for a couple years, and in fact predate Lisa Wynn's tenure as executive director of the board. But it began, let's say, with the ombudsman's office with a whistle blower, a complaint from an employee who was concerned, who says she brought her concerns to the deputy director and the executive director, that they were moving too quickly, they were side stepping rules and laws about what kind of verification was needed, primary source verification for doctors' prior employment, education, for their specialty certifications, and she was concerned for the public safety. So she eventually brought her concerns forward, the Arizona Ombudsman, which is an arm of the state legislature, it investigates state agencies, and she also brought her complaints forward to legislators as well.

Ted Simons: The concern was that corners were being cut, the streamlining was to the point where some folks, you couldn't verify their background, couldn't verify recent job history?

Mary K. Reinhart: It wasn't that they couldn't be verified, it was the way the board went about verifying them. And what the Ombudsman's report said was that the executive director and the deputy director would get the certification, the licensing information, the education, without in all cases getting what they call primary source. In other words, no one mailed them copies. They were using online databases in some cases, they were using other methods that the ombudsman's office and the whistle blowers felt were cutting corners in violation of rules and laws. What Lisa Wynn in her defense is saying is that some of these rules were almost 20 years old and were put in place before we had things like online databases, and online applications. You can't -- How do you get someone to stamp an online application? You can't anymore. It's not a paper document any longer. But the concern was instead of coming forward to the legislature and asking, or to the board and asking for rules and laws to be changed, she went around and did those -- Made those changes in policy herself and should have asked permission.

Ted Simons: That's outlined in this report. The board gets the report and the board -- I remember reading your stories on this, other stories on this, it sounds like the board initially after receiving the report gave her a vote of confidence. What happened?

Mary K. Reinhart: It wasn't exact a vote of confidence, but a week before the report was released, the board met on October 2nd and unanimously, 11-0, because there's a vacancy on the 12-member board, unanimously agreed to give director Wynn a letter of reprimand, and allow her to continue in her job, overseeing the agency. A week later the ombudsman's report is released, there's a lot of media, in the newspaper and on TV, and there is absolutely no response from anyone, not the governor's office, not the board, not the board's hired publicist, Gordon James, and Lisa Wynn herself. So several days go on and the board on Friday almost 4:30, calls a Saturday board meeting to fire her. Then at that point saying, split decision, 5-4, with two members absent, and we're not sure why, because most folks called in telephonically. They were on the phone. So we're not sure why two of the members were absent from what was a pretty important vote and a close vote. But in the words of the chairman, they had lost the public trust. What Lisa Wynn and frankly it was Tim Nelson, representing her, said was she was essentially muzzled. She was told not to respond by the board and the board said we would handle communications, and the board in the person of Gordon James, their hired publicist, did not provide any defense for Lisa. She was allowed to respond in the ombudsman's report. In the written report.

Ted Simons: It sounds as though she's a little bit is coming out as far as explanations, especially through the attorney, but quickly now, senator Nancy Bartow is involved to some extent, and how much is the governor's office involved? It is a board, after all.

Mary K. Reinhart: The governor appoints the members of the board. Then they go through Nancy Bartow's committee or the senate health committee chair for confirmation. Senator Bartow was clear from the beginning when this report was released that she wanted -- She didn't think the board's letter of reprimand was enough. When Lisa Wynn was fired she thought that was the right decision. She's also tangled with Lisa Wynn in the past, previous audits, and through this first report that was released, she didn't necessarily go along with the recommendation the ombudsman had made. So Senator Bartow and Lisa Wynn had a little history going back a couple years.

Ted Simons: Last question, quickly, firing of someone -- Lisa Wynn's reputation, her background, her history in the medical community here in the valley, were folks surprised by this?

Mary K. Reinhart: I would say that's fair. They were shocked. She's been in public office for a long time. She's been Director of the board over five years. It wasn't something that just -- She didn't just show up. People were clearly shocked. She's had a terrific reputation in the public health world.

Ted Simons: Something as important as licensing doctors and looking at the background of doctors, we're talking -- What happens next as far as -- People are getting licenses have to be looked at again?

Mary K. Reinhart: What Lisa and her defenders are saying, some of the board members are saying, is that these are problems that have been addressed and are being addressed. Even though the report talks about 2,000 licenses they are recommending be reviewed, either by the auditor general's office or the legislature, they're referring some of these alleged law-breaking allegations to the Attorney General's office who will probably have to move it to the county attorney's office, because they advise the board, a lot of this stuff has been handled already. Some of the board members say internally. There are 600 licenses at issue that were not verified having primary verification on the doctors' previous hospital affiliations. That's an internal review that's been ongoing since earlier this year within the board. So a lot happening, and certainly several more chapters to come.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Good to have you. Great reporting. Thank you so much.

Author Jana Bommersbach

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  • As a journalist, she wrote about politicians and investigated true crime. Now, Arizonan Jana Bommersbach has turned her efforts to writing a children’s book. Bommersbach will talk about her book: A Squirrel’s Story—A True Tale.
  • Jana Bommersbach - Author, "A Squirrel’s Story—A True Tale"
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: author, children, book,

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Ted Simons: As a local journalist, she wrote about politician and investigated true crime. Now Jana Bommersbach is out with a children's book titled "A Squirrel's Story A True Tale." Jana Bommersbach and friend join us now to talk about this new effort. It's good to see you again.

Jana Bommersbach: Hello. This is Shirley mamma squirrel, this is my squirrel puppet I take and show to children. She's a big hit of the story.

Ted Simons: She's a big hit of the story. You walk in here, you've got a children's book, you've got product already! You really got -- Let's talk about it. How did you become a children's writer?

Jana Bommersbach: Well, the thing -- Shirley, do you want to lay down? The story behind this is that my mother told me to write this book. This is based on a true story my parents witnessed in their backyard in North Dakota. Back in 2007. And ever since then mother has said you've got to write this book. She called me up and said, “I've got your next book. You can't believe what I just saw this squirrel do.” And she told me the story of this squirrel mother having trouble with her babies, and who had set up housekeeping of all places in a birdhouse. Squirrels don't live in birdhouses. You know. So she's been after me ever since then to do this book. And finally I met a publisher who said, have you ever wanted to write a children's book? And I said my mother wants me to. So that was the start. I finally did what my mother told me to do.

Ted Simons: Was a publisher found, was the story written? Give us the order.

Jana Bommersbach: It actually was on Centennial day. I was at the capitol February 14th, 2012, I ran into Linda Ratke, the publisher of Five-Star Publications, one of these great publishing houses that almost nobody in Arizona knows she's here, though they all know her books, because she does fantastic children's books. And she's a great treasure of Arizona. I was so proud to meet her, and so pleased to meet her. When she said have you ever wanted to write a children's book, I said my mother wants me to, she said let's talk. So I called her up and we talked. She loved the story, and she said, let me send you a contract. She sends me a contract with a deadline four months down the road. So I was at that point writing a historical novel, I was thinking about some other true crime books, and I've got to change all my thinking to try to write a children's book.

Ted Simons: I want to talk to you about that. How do you write for children you don't talk down to them, but you have to explain what's going on? How difficult was that?

Jana Bommersbach: It's very scary, Ted. Adults you can kind of -- You know how to write to adults. They filter and they know. Children, they don't have those filters. Children, the responsibility of writing for a child is enormous. You have to be very accurate. Very clear. You have to not write down, ever write down to them, never treat them like they're babies. Always make them step up a tiny bit. You have to entertain them as well as educate them. You have a lot of responsibilities with a child. And it's very daunting. It's very scary. You think, oh, my goodness I'll never be able to do this.

Ted Simons: Did you write for a particular child? Was there a child on your shoulder? Did you write for -- Who did you write for, young Jana?

Jana Bommersbach: No one has asked me that! I don't know exactly who I was writing to. I was trying to write -- I think I was writing to every child I knew. I have a lot of neighborhood children. I think I was trying to write to those children. I thought if I'm talking to these children, maybe they'll understand this way. But it was like, first you've got to figure out who tells the story, what voice are you going to have, I didn't know a thing about squirrels. When my parents called and said basically you need to know squirrels don't live in birdhouses, which becomes the first sentence of the book. Which was the first thing I knew about squirrels. So I did what I do as a journalist. I started researching squirrels. And found out to my amazement that there is enormous amount of research on squirrels. They know everything about these creatures.

Ted Simons: There's a lot of squirrels to research. Other parts of the country, they're all over the place.

Jana Bommersbach: And there's like 2,000 varieties of them. So I started researching squirrels, found out all these cute things and secrets about squirrels, and that's what the children love the most. When I'm reading these books and I tell them the secrets of squirrels, how they communicate, laugh, how they mark their food. That's the part they love the most. They love being like they know something special.

Ted Simons: Talk about the illustrator. They're beautiful illustrations. They go with the story nicely. Did you pick the illustrator?

Jana Bommersbach: My publisher picked the illustrator. She's out of Indiana, someone she had worked with in the past. She sent them my story, the pages that I'd basically laid out and he started illustrating. I thought he did a magnificent job. He so captured the characters. One of the major characters is a big fat, mean black cat. For all cat lovers in this world, she has a good time at the end. So we don't --

Ted Simons: I was wondering if that cat would show up again.

Jana Bommersbach: But the children -- There's a great huge illustration at the beginning of the book the kids are oh, there's the cat! That cat looks so mean! She's licking her lips! So he captured the essence, not only what the words were, but the feeling of that book.

Ted Simons: Sometimes playwrights and screen writers write and they see the product either on the stage or screen, and sometimes they're happy, and sometimes it builds and grows, sometimes they go, I'm not so happy. When you finally got the book and saw the illustrations, was it a whole new story? Was it what you wrote? Was it different?

Jana Bommersbach: I understood the story better when I saw -- I thought the illustrator did such a magnificent job. I understood the story better. I liked the story more. I thought the story came alive. He gave total personality to my characters. More than you could ever do with words. What you can do, there's one scene where my dad is -- My dad and mom are in the book. My dad is spraying the black cat. I knew they didn't like the cat either because I saw Rudy spraying the cat. And he's got the little squirrel on her back laughing like crazy. It's like, one of those touches you think --

Ted Simons: Even as an adult, I'm reading and going, which one is the boy? Oh, that must be the boy because he looks timid. You're caught up in the illustration. Are you going to write another children's book?

Jana Bommersbach: I am.

Ted Simons: You found something to latch on to?

Jana Bommersbach: Yes. Another true story. I have this tendency of liking true stories. And making them into books. So I have a story called “A Bear that Nobody Wanted.” It's based on a true story.

Ted Simons: You can bring in a big bear next time.

Jana Bommersbach: And this guy is so cute, he's outrageously good.

Ted Simons: I gotta mention, did I see blurb from Rose Mawford on the back of the book.

Jana Bommersbach: She was delightful. Terry Goddard said some nice things. Ellen Dean who is the Arizona director of a thing called Book Pals, which is a Screen Actors Guild program to bring actors and authors into schools to read to children, I'm now a part of that program because of this. This has opened up a whole new life for me. I'm now volunteering at Capitol school, reading to children in the library and being involved in going to schools and seeing children. Eileen Bailey, who has thing called Kids Read, she bought 300 of my books to pass out to children. Which was just something wonderful.

Ted Simons: It's so nice to know it makes someone happy. You write about a drunk murderess, you don't know who's going to respond. You write about a squirrel, sending their babies off into the world, most important question, how do mom and dad feel?

Jana Bommersbach: My dad has since passed away, but my mother is over the moon. Of all the things I've done in my life, this is the thing she thinks is the best thing.

Ted Simons: Congratulations. It's a hoot, and I loved seeing the product already. Product placement. You gotta love it. The squirrels are fantastic. Congratulations.

Jana Bommersbach: Thank you very much.

Sustainability: Manufactures Air Quality Conference

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  • The Arizona Manufacturers Council and the Maricopa County Air Quality Department will be holding an air quality conference for the first time in several years. The conference will feature information regarding air quality standards crucial to manufacturing and the future of air quality regulations. Bert Acken, an environmental attorney for the firm Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite, will discuss the conference and air quality issues important to manufacturers.
  • Bert Acken - Environmental Attorney, Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite
Category: Sustainability   |   Keywords: sustainability, air quality, conference, arizona, environment, manufacturing,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Tonight's Focus on Sustainability looks at an air quality conference cohosted by the Arizona Manufacturers' Council, and the Maricopa County Air Quality Department. The conference will detail the latest information regarding air quality standards crucial to manufacturing and clean air regulations. For more we welcome local environmental attorney Bert Acken. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Bert Acken: Thank you for having me.

Ted Simons: Is that basically what we're talking about, this conference designed to address concerns from manufacturers and those who regulate manufacturers?

Bert Acken: It's really designed to be a broad-based conference. It's a conference that was done the last time we did it was four years ago. And we're really excited about doing it again. It's an opportunity to showcase the collaboration between the regulated community and local and state governments as we work together to develop ways to improve air quality in Maricopa County. Air quality is fundamental and important to us all. And this conference is not designed just for air quality experts. It's really designed for anyone who has an interest in the topic, and is a great opportunity for them to learn more about it.

Ted Simons: It sounds like environmental folks, residents, manufacturers, regulatory agencies will all be there to, what, share information, share the latest information?

Bert Acken: Absolutely. We're going to have presentations from all of the stakeholders you just mentioned. We'll be talking about exceptional events, which is -- That's the fancy word if you will for the dust storms that you see in Maricopa County. How do we deal with those? What are the next steps in trying to demonstrate attainment with our various air quality standards we have to meet, given that we have that in the Valley. Also, we're going to talk about some new rules that apply for start-up and shut-down, director Bill Wiley, who's the director of Maricopa County Air Quality Department, he's going to speak about the agency's latest and current priorities. And we will have a panel discussion of a variety of stakeholders, and again, it will be the community, the regulators, regulated industry, nonprofits, all to discuss these current issues and come up with some solutions.

Ted Simons: It sounds like you hadn't had a conference in four years. What happened, why did they stop?

Bert Acken: It's a lot of effort to put something like this on. You also saw -- There was a few things that happened over the past four years with the economy, and with that you have changes both at the regulators and you have changes in regulated industry. And that's why frankly this is a great time to restart it and -- Because there are so many new faces, and in that interim period there have been a lot of new requirements and new developments. And so that's why we're redoing it now. And hope to continue it moving forward as well.

Ted Simons: As far as the new requirements and the new regulations, give us a brief touching on what those are and what the concerns are with the manufacturing industry, how they are addressing those regulations.

Bert Acken: There's always a series of regulations you're dealing with. Currently most of what's being done is being driven at the federal level. We continue to have a regulatory moratorium at the state level, and then the local agency has to develop laws and the state does as well to implement the federal standards. So if EPA sets forth standards and says this is what must be done, then the local and state agencies have to develop regulations to implement them. I mentioned exceptional events, that is a hot topic right now. Another one that's statewide of significance is the regional Hayes rule. And that's something that will affect everyone in some manner, whether it's the cost of power, the cost of water.

Ted Simons: What is the current state of air quality in the valley, in the state?

Bert Acken: I've been doing this for over a decade, and air quality today is far better than it was when I first started. And I think it's important for folks to keep that in mind, that the air our kids are breathing today is so much cleaner than the air a generation ago. What happens is that the clean air act sets moving targets for what is the standard. So you have a standard for particulate matter, or ozone, and periodically those standards get updated as new scientific information is developed, and increases our understanding, then the standards become more string end. So you end up with a situation where you hear, we're still not meeting standards, we're still not meeting standards. But the fact of the matter is, if you look at the trend line of air quality, pollution, it's universally down in Maricopa County. It's just the function of we're chasing that moving target and we'll continue to have those challenges moving forward.

Ted Simons: And those exceptional events are always a concern in this part of the world. Tell us about the conference date and location.

Bert Acken: Thank you. It's November 6th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., it's going to be at the Sheraton Tempe airport hotel. We're expecting a great turnout, and think it will be a good event.

Ted Simons: Bert, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

Bert Acken: Thank you very much.