December 11, 2013
On December 6, I received a long rambling email about Dr. Michael Tarver’s, apparently sent out by his dad, Buzz. In this letter he blames everyone for Tarver’s woes, except Michael, which is typical, after all it is his dad writing it. You can read Buzz’s email in it’s entirety at the end of this post, along with other stories about Dr. Tarver and Polliwog Dental.
Buzz may have gone too far, when blaming Florida Department of Health Investigator, Mike Knezevich. Buzz writes,
“Basically an unscrupulous investigator for the DOH, Mike Knezevich, fabricated evidence, filed false, misleading and inaccurate reports, possibly intimidated witnesses and ignored sworn affidavits and other statements from dental professionals. In addition, Knezevich did not ask for or consider advice or clarification from any general dentist, pediatric dentist or medical or dental anesthesiologist. Equally disturbing is that the DOH lawyers appear to have rubber stamped Knezevich's false reports without checking the facts.
I’m assuming Buzz is grasping at straw, since just days prior, The Health News Florida published an article about Dr. Michael Tarvers, a Whistleblower and video of Tarvers altering patient records.
Tarver maybe going down, but he’s kicking and screaming every lick of the way.
Mon December 2, 2013
A whistleblower’s lawsuit has been filed by two former employees of a troubled Ocala dental practice.
Polliwog Dental, the focus of investigations by the Florida Department of Health and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is being sued for retaliation and failure to pay overtime to the two fired workers, the Ocala Star-Banner reported (paywall alert).
The lawsuit says employee Andrea Frederick used a cellphone to videotape Polliwog owner and dentist Dr. Michael Tarver as he altered medical records that had been subpoenaed by DOH. The other worker, Tiffany Sullivan, alleges that Tarver ordered her to stall investigators and refuse to turn over records, the lawsuit states.
The former employees are asking the court for $15,000 per allegation and attorney’s fees. Tarver told the Star-Banner he would have no comment.
The Star-Banner reports that problems first emerged at the practice in July, when DEA investigators visited the Ocala practice, took some files and questioned employees. That investigation continues.
In September, Tarver was suspended under an emergency DOH order. That suspension stems from allegations involving two 4-year-old patients, but the local State Attorney’s Office said they found no reason to charge the dentist with child abuse, the paper reports.
Last month, Tarver and the DOH reached a settlement with the state's Board of Dentistry, which includes a $7,500 fine, education and the requirement that Tarver hand over operation of the business. The day before the hearing Polliwog changed its name to Churchill Dentistry. Tarver’s wife and business partner continue to run the practice.
Mass Email from Buzz Tarver
Dear Friends and other interested parties,
All families occasionally go through some tough times and our family is no exception.
In September, Michael's dental license was suspended by the Florida Department of Health (DOH). Michael's license was recently reinstated. The license suspension has been played out several times on the front page of the Ocala newspaper and on various local TV news reports. Michael has been subjected to extensive negative publicity accompanied by some personal threats. Basically an unscrupulous investigator for the DOH, Mike Knezevich, fabricated evidence, filed false, misleading and inaccurate reports, possibly intimidated witnesses and ignored sworn affidavits and other statements from dental professionals. In addition, Knezevich did not ask for or consider advice or clarification from any general dentist, pediatric dentist or medical or dental anesthesiologist. Equally disturbing is that the DOH lawyers appear to have rubber stamped Knezevich's false reports without checking the facts. A simple Google search, a search on the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry website or a brief conversation with a pediatric dentist doing conscious sedations could have quashed these false accusations. On several occasions, Michael and his attorney provided irrefutable evidence of Michael's innocence to both the DOH and Board of Dentistry Probable Cause Panel. The evidence was ignored and in the case of the Probable Cause Panel, even though the evidence package was hand delivered to each member of the panel, Michael's package was not considered at the hearing. Frustrated with any semblance of a fair hearing or due process and at some risk to Michael from possible DOH retaliation, , Michael filed a formal complaint with the DOH on Investigator Knezevich. The complaint became a matter of public record and the DOH was forced to consider the accusations by Knezevich against Michael. It only took a few days for the DOH to check the facts. According to Michael's attorney, The DOH has started termination proceedings against Knezevich and the Florida Attorney General's office is having conversations with Michael's attorney about filing criminal charges against Knezevich. I guess the Ocala press doesn't consider this misconduct newsworthy as there has been no mention of it in the newspaper. I'm going to send this email to them as a long "letter to the editor."
If you want the full, detailed story, please read on below. Much of the information I am presenting is now a matter of public record. To the best of my knowledge, the information I am presenting is accurate. I understand that the truth is my defense against libel. You are most welcome to share this email with other interested folks. The facts are disturbing and disgusting. Don't think for even a moment that something like this could not happen to you or someone you love.
Paraphrased from Michael's attorney, a former prosecutor for the Attorney General's office, former lead prosecutor for the Florida Board of Dentistry and now a private practice defense attorney…'What happened to Dr. Michael Tarver is the most compelling abuse of power and investigative misconduct I have experienced in my 30 years of legal practice.'
As a way of introduction, Michael is a native of Lakeland. He graduated summa cum laude from both Wake Forest University and Tuft's Dental School. Michael completed his pediatric dental residency at the University of Florida and is board-certified by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Michael also earned a CPA license and a Series 7 license and holds a multi-engine Airline Transport Pilot license and is a Certified Flight Instructor. Michael and his wife Rebecca, a general dentist limiting her practice to children, opened their children's dental practice in Ocala in January of 2012. They purchased a bank-owned, run-down building in a great location. They remodeled the building and personally installed most of the dental equipment. They also purchased a home in Ocala. They have substantial financial equity and sweat equity invested in their practice and the Ocala community. They loved Ocala and thought of themselves spending the rest of their lives there. All of that may have changed.
Michael was the only pediatric dentist within the 5 surrounding counties of Ocala seeing any significant volume of Medicaid children. Michael's thriving practice was shut down by the DOH. 22 employees lost their jobs…most of whom collected unemployment and many have not found new jobs. Thousands of children had no local pediatric dentist available for treatment. In addition, MCNA Dental and DentaQuest, Medicaid dental managed care organizations, suspended Michael from their programs. Neither group has reinstated Michael into their programs. This means that the vast majority of Medicaid children in the 5 surrounding counties cannot see a local children's dental specialist…especially one doing conscious sedations. In addition, MCNA Dental and DentaQuest suspended Rebecca from their programs…and Rebecca has a spotless record… guilt by association. Neither organization has reinstated Rebecca's credentials either.
Michael was accused of 2 serious violations which if true (which they were not) would warrant a license suspension. A mother accused Michael of administering, without permission, GENERAL anesthesia on her child. Michael has never administered general anesthesia on any child…ever. Michael knows of NO pediatric dentist that administers general anesthesia by themselves. Specialized equipment is required to administer general anesthesia and a cursory tour of Michael's office would confirm that Michael does not possess such equipment. Michael had signed consent forms, in both English and Spanish, for conscious sedation, which he administered. Michael has performed thousands of conscious sedations. Michael has never had to call 911 or other medical emergency personnel on any patient…ever. This accusation by Knezevich was proven totally and absolutely false and without merit.
A second case involved a patient, under conscious sedation, that was starting to experience labored breathing. Michael administered oxygen and a reversal agent and, within 15-20 seconds the patient was breathing normally. At that point, Michael stopped his treatment, spoke with the mother and referred the patient to Shands Hospital for treatment. Shands evaluated the patient and declined treatment. The patient returned to Michael for treatment. Michael used a different conscious sedation drug to successfully treat the patient. The patient returned several times to Michael for additional treatment. A 3-month employee, who had never previously worked for a pediatric dentist, sent an email to the Ocala police saying that she thought the patient died in the dental chair, Michael brought the patient back to life by performing CPR, and didn't tell the mother what happened.
The Ocala police called Knezevich about the email. That seemed to be the extent of Knezevich's investigation. Michael has never performed CPR on any patient…ever. This accusation by Knezevich was proven totally and absolutely false and without merit. In BOTH cases, Knezevich ignored sworn affidavits from attending dental assistants confirming Michael's innocence. As mentioned previously, Knezevich did not consider advice or clarification from any other general dentist, pediatric dentist or medical or dental anesthesiologist. The DOH in both cases, seemed to accept Knezevich's reports verbatim without doing any fact checking.
Michael was also accused of 2 records violations...one on each of the above patients. A subpoena was issued on, I believe, July 18th for Michael's dental records on the above patients. The subpoena expired in 2 weeks. After holding the subpoena for 13 days, Knezevich delivered the subpoena to Michael's office on August 1st, the day before the subpoena expired. Interestingly, and very convenient for Knezevich, that morning Michael and Rebecca left Ocala for a planned trip to Iowa City, Iowa to visit Rebecca's 92-yr old grandmother and some other relatives. If was the first vacation Michael and Rebecca had taken since they opened for business. They had talked about taking the trip for weeks with staff, patients and anyone that may have been interested. Knezevich knew that they would be out of the office. Michael never saw a copy of the subpoena but was informed by his staff through Knezevich that Michael had 24 hours to produce the records or he would be held in contempt of court. Of course that wasn't true but Michael didn't know that. By law, the patient dental records belong to the DOCTOR.
Michael did not give Knezevich permission to take the patient dental records. In Iowa City, Michael used a computer program, for the very first time, to remotely access his patient dental records. Most in-office computer programs automatically date-stamp entries into dental records. This remote program did not. Michael made some late clarifying and explanatory notes to the two patient dental records without identifying the notations as late entries. Michael did not delete any information from the records, he only added clarifying information. Our research showed that there is no law in the Florida dental regulations prohibiting late entries or requiring a late entry be notated as such, and even though both a pediatric dentist and a dental anesthesiologist reviewed Michael's notes and submitted sworn affidavits that no material change was made to the patient records, Michael was charged with the records' violations.
To the best of our knowledge, no dental license suspension has EVER occurred for such a records violation. In order to get his dental license reinstated, Michael had to agree to the records violation. The agreement obligated Michael to reimburse the DOH for its $17,000 in investigative costs by its unscrupulous investigator. The reimbursement seemed to be very important to the DOH. It's a bit like being jailed for a crime you didn't commit…being found innocent and released 3 months later, then being billed for all the costs of your incarceration. If you don't pay up, you remain in jail.
Oh, in the mean time, you lost your job, your incarceration was played out in the press, your home and office building went into foreclosure, all of your employees were let go and haven't found new jobs, your wife and friends no longer speak with you, your dog doesn't recognize you and you've been kicked out of your Sunday school class. A bit of an exaggeration…but just a bit.
Within 2 business days of the license suspension, Michael and his attorney delivered to the DOH complete and irrefutable evidence of Michael's innocence of the serious accusations. The evidence was ignored. The Board of Dentistry convened a probable cause panel of dentists. Michael's attorney hand-delivered the same evidence to each panel member. The panel ignored the evidence. Later in the dental board hearing, after considering the lack of evidence to support the charges against Michael, the incoming Chairman of the Florida Board of Dentistry recommended dropping all charges against Michael. The motion was seconded but did not receive a majority vote.
One week before the Florida Dental Board hearing, Michael took the unprecedented step of filing a formal complaint with the DOH against Investigator Knezevich.
The first business day AFTER the dental board meeting, the DOH initiated termination procedures against Knezevich…I suspect for gross misconduct. The following day the Attorney General's office solicited information from Michael's attorney about possibly filing criminal charges against Knezevich. Of course if this information had been available the day BEFORE at the dental board hearing, Michael may have had a more receptive audience.
Knezevich was a Gainesville police officer for 20 years attaining the rank of corporal. My Army days would suggest he didn't advance very far in those 20 years. A public records request by Michael showed some disturbing information about Knezevich…multiple driving while drinking violations, multiple internal affairs investigations, lying under oath, an extended suspension from the police force, scathing performance reviews, finally leading to a possible "quit or be fired" meeting. He left the police force. The DOH hired this guy. He was their employee for 7 years.
A public records request to the DOH revealed more of the same…scathing performance reviews, report filing violations, insubordination. Knezevich liked to boast that "he puts dentists in jail." Knezevich is a bad guy with a huge chip on his shoulder.
This begs the question…what was the DOH thinking when they hired this guy? Either the DOH ignored his past history or they failed to do even a cursory background check…and they gave Knezevich cart-blanch authority, without adequate supervision, to act as judge, jury and executioner with Michael and other medical professionals.
The actions of Knezevich, the DOH and the Florida Dental Board Probable Cause Panel are egregious. The stress on Michael, Rebecca, their former employees and all of our families has been intense. Michael and Rebecca are understandable disillusioned, anxious, distressed and uncertain about their future. What this loving and caring couple has been put through is both tragic and unwarranted.
Thank you for taking your time to read this long email. Colette and I appreciate you and thank you for the support of our family. If so inclined, Michael can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-899-$%$$.
My best personal regards,
The personal phones numbers were redacted by DTM
On August 30, 2013 the Ocala Post published an article where Travers lashes out at patients and parents, blaming Medicaid patients for his woes. click here to see the article and Tarver’s Facebook post.
September 10, 2013 WTEV issued a story where locals evidently were wore out with Dr. Michael Tarver and his ugly ways. (click here to read the article and comments)
Florida Dental Board allows Dr. Michael Tarver access to children after Florida Department of Health says he’s too dangerous