Two former staffers of the Nevada Board of Dental Examiners received separation pay packages worth tens of thousands of dollars and months of health insurance, records show.
The two were terminated following a Review-Journal investigation last year into the controversial agency showing the board’s lax oversight failed patients.
Executive Director Debra Shaffer-Kugel and General Counsel Melanie Bernstein Chapman signed termination agreements on Jan. 17 with the newly-formed board that allowed them to be paid for an additional month without being required to show up at the office. The agreement states the termination was without cause.
Shaffer-Kugel also received six months of additional pay. The total separation pay is estimated to be worth about $70,000. Chapman received three months, including the month she doesn’t have to show up. That is worth about $28,000 based on her 2018 salary posted on Transparent Nevada.
Shaffer-Kugel received health insurance insurance benefits through the end of August 2020, and Chapman through May, the agreements show.
The two were terminated effective Dec. 5, but inexplicably remained on the job until Gov. Steve Sisolak appointed a new board. The governor has the power to appoint dental board members, but only the board can hire or fire staff.
The agency has been the focus of two critical state audits. And a Review-Journal investigation found the board failed to discipline dentists who repeatedly injured patients, had allegations of ethical conflicts and failed to abide by open meetings laws.
While the separation agreements were signed and voted on during the Jan. 17 meeting, board and staff members refused to provide copies and waited 10 days to provide the agreements in response to an open records request.
Richard Karpel, executive director of the Nevada Press Association, said it was inappropriate to withhold the documents at the meeting.
“Why in the world would a board conceal copies of non-confidential agreements they voted to approve during a public meeting?,” he said in an email exchange. “Is the Dental Board intent on shredding its trust with Nevada citizens?”
The agreements don’t provide the actual cost of the separation agreements, but the Review-Journal estimated how much the separation agreements were worth based on the last available salary information for the two staffers.
The paper repeatedly requested the exact amount of payments and benefits provided to the women, but has not received the information as of Tuesday.
Board president D. Kevin Moore and interim executive director Candice Stratton did not immediately return calls.
Reno resident Steve Garrity, who talked to the Review-Journal in December about his frustrations in getting the board to act on his complaint against a dentist with prior board actions, said he still hasn’t heard what is happening in his case.
Garrity said he called last week and was promised an update Friday or Monday, but hadn’t heard back Tuesday morning.
“I’m stuck paying $363.00 a month for two years … for uncompleted dental work,” he said in an email exchange.
After Garrity talked to the Review-Journal, Shaffer-Kugel sent him a letter threatening to dismiss his complaint because he violated a confidentiality provision the agency includes on their complaint forms.
Shaffer-Kugel and Chapman could not be reached for comment.
Contact Arthur Kane at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @ArthurMKane on Twitter. Kane is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing. Support our journalism.