by Tim Farley.
Anagnost claims he was invited to view confidential files
OKLAHOMA CITY – A group of Tulsa doctors are trying to prevent damaging emails and other critical information from being used as part of a lawsuit filed against them by competing spinal surgeon Steven Anagnost.
The doctors claim Anagnost, also of Tulsa, obtained the information illegally during a meeting at the Oklahoma Bar Association and should not be allowed as evidence when the trial begins. No trial date has been set in the case against the four physicians, three medical malpractice attorneys and two officials with the Oklahoma Medical Licensure and Supervision Board, including Executive Director Lyle Kelsey.
Anagnost countered that he and his attorneys at the time were invited to the OBA office to review documents and answer questions in connection with an investigation involving three medical malpractice attorneys with direct connections to the medical board. The probe reportedly centers on conflicts of interest and allegations the attorneys used confidential information from complaints filed against Anagnost in later lawsuits. The three attorneys – Gary L. Brooks, Randy Sullivan and Daniel B. Graves – are listed as plaintiffs in Anagnost’s lawsuit filed in Oklahoma County District Court.
At the time the complaints were filed, Brooks was a medical board member and Sullivan served as a prosecutor for the board. Graves was hired as a special prosecutor during the board’s inquiry into the complaints against Anagnost.
Two of the Tulsa doctors – Clinton Baird and Chris Boxell – claim in a court document filed earlier in June that the OBA files were obtained from the medical board under subpoena. The court filing also states the board file is confidential and privileged information regarding Anagnost and the investigation surrounding his medical practice.
Anagnost and his attorneys attempted to obtain the board file against him with a subpoena filed with the OBA. However, a judge ruled the OBA was not obligated to publicly disclose the file because it is confidential. The doctors allege in the same court filing that Anagnost reportedly took a compact disk and paper copies of documents from the OBA investigative file, but later returned all of the materials.
No ruling has been made in connection with the damaging emails and if they will be admitted as evidence during the trial.
Many of the documents in the OBA file were obtained by Red Dirt Report in 2014 and published in a series of stories that chronicled the actions taken by the medical board as a result of unsubstantiated verbal and written complaints against Anagnost. The doctor has always maintained his medical license and continues to practice in northeast Oklahoma.
The complaints led to an emergency hearing held June 11, 2010, but the hearing ended because then-Assistant Attorney General and medical board legal counsel Libby Scott admitted she could not prove the state’s case against him. However, the board did not withdraw or dismiss the initial complaint. Instead, the case against Anagnost remained on the board’s public website until 2014, leaving the impression that the he was still under investigation.
Some of the emails the competing doctors want excluded as evidence involve communications about the emergency hearing and how board members should prepare for similar proceedings in the future.
A June 20, 2010 memo obtained by Red Dirt Report shows the board’s medical advisor, Dr. Eric Frische, tried to explain to board members why the state dismissed the complaint against Anagnost.
“I think we felt that we wanted to catch him off guard but clearly he wasn’t,” Frische wrote. “In future cases like this one, we might consider an interview with multiple interviewers and do so on the record and probably in our Board office where we can record the interview. That should be adequate to catch doctors off guard.”
Frische, a defendant in Anagnost’s lawsuit, also wrote in the memo that he and other board members were “surprised that our experts’ testimony didn’t hold up once Dr. Anagnost presented his defense. The flaw with our experts was that they didn’t appear to have expertise with the minimally invasive spine surgery.”
The experts were identified as Dr. Frank Tomecek and Dr. David Fell, who both were at that time major investors in Tulsa Spine & Specialty Hospital. Neither Tomecek nor Fell had ever performed minimally invasive spine surgery. Tomecek, Fell and the hospital are listed as defendants in Anagnost’s lawsuit.
Anagnost claims in his lawsuit filed in 2013 that the defendants conspired to take away his medical license after he rejected an offer to join their medical practice and invest in their privately-owned Tulsa Spine & Specialty Hospital.
Another example of damaging emails in the OBA file involve then-medical board investigator Gayla Janke writing to Tomecek in October 2011, urging him to round up as many complaints as possible against Anagnost.
“It is important to Dr. Anagnost’s case that all 25 of the patients whose case is with the Sneed Lang Firm (and any other patient you know of that has been injured) fill out the attached Complaint Form, and send it back to the Medical Board. The more Complaints we have the better,” she wrote.
About 18 months after the emergency hearing, it became clear that the medical board was still pursuing a case against Anagnost. An internal email obtained by Red Dirt Report shows Janke corresponded with medical board Executive Director Kelsey, Scott and Frische detailing a telephone call she had with Tulsa medical malpractice attorney Jennifer DeAngelis.
“She (DeAngelis) blasted me hard about the Board’s lack of action against Dr. Anagnost. She said things like ‘The doctors that are helping us and helping you are ready to do anything we need to do to help the Board with this case. We will get the patients to talk to you,’” Janke wrote.
About an hour later on Dec. 8, 2011, Kelsey wrote in an email to Scott, “Why don’t the doctors get the hospital(s) to do something against his privileges if they are so aghast.”
In a separate email to Scott on the same day, Kelsey wrote, “She (DeAngelis) needs to be castigated for trying to second guess our process and work on getting him (Anagnost) kicked off the Tulsa hospital staffs.”
On Oct. 29, 2013, Kelsey sent a letter to OBA attorney Debbie Maddox on behalf of medical malpractice attorney Brooks.
“At some point, Mr. Brooks disclosed to me that he had a pending case against Steven C. Anagnost and would not participate in any matter involving a hearing concerning him,” Kelsey wrote.
However, other documents obtained by Red Dirt Report demonstrates that Brooks met with medical board investigators, attended staff meetings and orchestrated meetings to determine which former Anagnost patients should sue the doctor.
In one report dated March 18, 2010, Janke wrote, “Mr. Brooks has met with investigator and reviewed and provided medical records, deposition transcripts, radiology films and other evidence belonging to the patient.”
Anagnost has claimed in previous interviews that the medical board, with the knowledge of the Attorney General’s office, maintained public and secret files on Anagnost.
None of the attorneys involved in the lawsuit filed by Anagnost wanted to comment for this story because of the pending litigation.