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EDITORIAL: Sealing of doctor’s case failed the public interest

For those who don’t fully appreciate the importance of open government in protecting the public and holding institutions accountable — or why this newspaper advocates for transparency so frequently — we present disgusting, disturbing allegations against Dr. Binh “Ben” Minh Chung.

Chung has been charged with multiple counts of child pornography. Police say he recorded himself having sex with a sedated, underage girl in his office. Last week, the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners suspended his license.

Unfortunately, the board declined to take such a step in 2006, when both police and the board knew Chung had been accused of sex crimes against a teenager. He was charged with open and gross lewdness, but the charges were dismissed and the records were sealed and removed from court files.

So why did the Board of Medical Examiners move so quickly to suspend Chung’s license this year in the absence of a criminal conviction, but serve Chung with a letter of concern nine years ago when presented with similar allegations? We don’t know because the records were never made public. Worse, there is no record of where the records are now.

On Friday, the Review-Journal filed a motion to unseal and locate the records from Chung’s 2006 criminal case in an attempt to understand why his license wasn’t suspended then and why the allegations weren’t disclosed. A hearing on that motion has been scheduled for today.

In the past, the courts have been too quick to seal cases as favors to the wealthy and influential. “The court should correct its prior error and apparent over-exuberance regarding hiding facts from the public,” Review-Journal attorney Maggie McLetchie wrote.

The medical board has documented history of rejecting openness, acting with no urgency and refusing to discipline bad doctors and physicians who break the law. Nevadans need to know if it failed the public by knowingly allowing a sexual predator to continue seeing patients. The court must unseal the records and find them, if it takes every last clerk to dig them up.

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