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County public health officer resigns

The Nevada County public health officer has resigned, saying his superiors micromanaged his department and bullied him.

County Chief Executive Officer Rick Haffey said Monday that Dr. Brent Packer “had a problem following direction. He was not asked to do anything immoral, unethical or illegal.”

But in letters sent to Haffey and Jeff Brown, Packer’s immediate superior and director of the Human Services Agency, the physician said he was repeatedly badgered and undermined. Packer quit last Thursday after 11 months on the job.



“They’ve been riding me since September,” Packer said. “I was getting squeezed pretty hard.”

Brown said Packer’s resignation was a personnel matter that he could not elaborate on. But he said he could respond as to whether some specific allegations made by the doctor were true or not.




“It’s most unfortunate that Dr. Packer is taking this tact,” Brown said.

In his letters to Brown and Haffey, Packer said he was told to fabricate his time on MediCal billings so that the county could get more state money.

“It’s completely inaccurate,” Brown said.

In another statement, Packer said, “I was asked once to declare incompetent an elderly woman by a member of the Social Services Department (this was openly described as a favor by the social worker to the daughter living in the Bay Area). When I refused, on ethical, legal and grounds that I am not qualified for this declaration, you did not support me.”

“That’s untrue,” Brown said.

Packer said he put off signing clinical protocols because he wanted to see some changes to improve care, particularly in the county’s Truckee health clinic. He also said, “while I have legal responsibility to the clinics, I have been given no authority over the staff.”

Brown said a memo he sent to Packer in late March with concerns about his performance outlined his expected influence over the clinics. The memo said Packer was to “provide clinical oversight” with all programs and should update and OK all procedures in them on an annual basis.

In one letter, Packer said Brown was making county staff members do his homework assignments for a college course on community leadership.

“Incorrect,” Brown said, adding that the course was not a college class and is part of the Nevada County Community Leadership Institute.

“Any work associated with the Nevada County Community Leadership Institute was volunteer labor provided to support existing contract objectives within the (health) department,” Brown said.

Packer also said he was offered a deal where a person within the health department would get to keep his or her secretary if Packer agreed to fire his assistant. In return, he would get his own executive secretary, Packer alleged, but he refused to do so.

“Absolutely incorrect,” Brown said.

Another complaint from Packer was that his press releases had to be approved by his superiors.

“The standard county policy is to share them, time permitting, with senior management,” Brown said.

As to Packer’s general allegations that under Brown he had experienced “bullying, intimidation, harassment, undermining and micromanagement,” Brown had a single-word answer.

“Untrue.”

Packer’s resignation is the third from the hierarchy of the county health department within the past three years.

Prior to Brown’s tenure, in late July 2004, Health Department Director Hank Foley resigned, saying, “I didn’t have the stomach for it anymore.”

Foley did not offer specifics, but said, “The county bureaucratic system is more into control than service … It’s the whole structure. Micromanaging goes on endlessly in this county.”

County officials said at the time that Foley was upset over budget cuts in his department and agreed that it was hard for him to run it on slim funding.

Dr. Kent Cutler resigned as public health officer in February of 2004, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.

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To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4237.


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