Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 1, 2013

Northern Lakes board delays decision


“There is no evidence that any action occurred until 11/29/2011, when (state officials) became involved,” the state investigator wrote.

Paffhouse contends no additional facts were revealed since Sept. 7, when the state declared he was not at-fault. There also was no resulting change in Northern Lakes’ policy. That led him to wonder about the “motivations and timing associated with it.”

The board met in closed session with Grand Rapids attorney Donald Lawless. Afterward, they unanimously voted to send Paffhouse’s timeline of action along with back-up documents to the state Department of Community Mental Health for examination and reconsideration.

A Northern Lakes client and former attorney who attended the meeting voiced disappointment at the board’s decision.

“They are just stalling for time instead of settling the whole thing and getting it done and over with,” said Jacqueline Nagy, who chairs a board advisory committee. “Again and again these people are being violated and their case is not being taken seriously.”

Bill Rossbach, stepfather of Michael Hauler, a Northern Lakes client, filed allegations that Paffhouse did not sufficiently reprimand employees who allegedly obstructed the investigation and delayed effective action that would have protected clients.

The state investigator initially found that there was no “standard of care” that applies to a CEO when informed of an investigation. In other words, Paffhouse could not be held responsible for hands-on intervention; it was the staff’s responsibility to protect Northern Lakes clients. Rossbach argued in his appeal that the standard of care does apply to a CEO. He cited state law and Northern Lakes own board policy.

“It seems to me that the answer is staring at them in their face, so what are they up to?” he asked. “The board has no statutory right to appeal and why would they want one?”

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