A patient inside the Arizona State Hospital has raised concerns about the chief medical officer, who has a history of sexual harassment and misconduct involving multiple women at another facility.
Due to the national attention surrounding sexual harassment, the patient brought up past discipline against Dr. Steven Dingle during the public comment portion of a November 16th meeting of the Human Rights Committee, a board set up to address patient care and other concerns.
The Arizona Medical Board publicly reprimanded Dingle for sexually misconduct involving three different female subordinates in the mid-1990s.
“After reading his BOMEX consent order, it appears to me that he is a sexual predator. I would suggest that everybody read it and maybe realize that, you know, with all of these sexual harassment things, uh, complaints…,” said the patient in the meeting before he was interrupted.
Arizona State Hopsital CEO Dr. Aaron Bowen interjected by saying, “I can’t have folks calling my CMO a sexual predator in public,” according to audio of the meeting obtained by ABC15.
The Arizona Department of Health Services, which oversees the mental hospital, declined to let Dr. Dingle or other state officials comment for this story.
Instead, the state released a lengthy statement calling the patient’s comments “highly defamatory” and defending Dingle.
“Dr. Steven Dingle is a statewide expert in behavioral health and provides exemplary care to patients at ASH. He has not had any complaints or allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment and there have been no personnel actions while working for ADHS over the past 16 years,” according to the statement.
READ THE FULL STATEMENT BELOW
In 1997, the Arizona Medical Board issued Dingle a four-page reprimand for his conduct, which led to his resignation at a different psychiatric hospital.
The records outline repeated instances of verbal sexual harassment and other cases of unwanted physical grabbing and touching. Dingle signed a consent agreement essentially admitting to the facts in the reprimand.
Dingle was hired by the state after the letter of reprimand.
ABC15 has also learned there’s an internal debate between the state and the Human Rights Committee about how to document the patient’s comments.
An attorney for the state told board members that he doesn’t believe the patient’s comments should be memorialized in the meeting minutes, which are an official public account of what happened.
An email was also sent out by state attorneys telling board members that they want to reign in what patients or others say during the public comment portion of committee meetings.
In an unrelated 2015 investigation, ABC15 exposed how troubling incidents of sexual assault and abuse were improperly handled and investigated by the state hospital. After the reports, six top health department executives were fired and multiple outside investigations confirmed ABC15’s findings.
ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SERVICES FULL STATEMENT: The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) is committed to providing a therapeutic environment while protecting the rights of our patients and staff. ADHS does not tolerate harassment towards any person and has a responsibility to defend the integrity of our staff when they are subjected to personal attacks. Dr. Aaron Bowen, Arizona State Hospital (ASH) Chief Executive Officer, did not prevent anyone from sharing comments or concerns during the Human Rights Committee (HRC) meeting. Dr. Bowen briefly intervened during the public comment phase to address highly defamatory statements about an incident that has been public record for 22 years. ADHS highly values patient feedback and takes patient concerns seriously. These defamatory statements were not based on any current complaints or allegations.
Dr. Steven Dingle is a statewide expert in behavioral health and provides exemplary care to patients at ASH. He has not had any complaints or allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment and there have been no personnel actions while working for ADHS over the past 16 years. We have seen incredible improvements at the state hospital under Dr. Bowen’s and Dr. Dingle’s leadership and are tremendously proud of our entire team and their recovery oriented approach to patient care.
As per A.R.S § 41-3803, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) is responsible for administration of the ASH HRC. ADHS does not have a role in the development, editing or releasing of minutes for HRC meetings. Questions about the meeting minutes and related legal advice should be directed to AHCCCS.