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Like refusing a Breathalyzer? Ohio AG denies railroading COVID skeptic in medical board hearing

Social media users "trying to make this about her views on vaccines" when it's only about fulfilling basic obligations of medical license, Republican Dave Yost says.

Published: August 15, 2023 12:07am

Updated: August 15, 2023 10:31am

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is defending his office against accusations of railroading a doctor who challenges COVID-19 orthodoxy, telling Just the News that osteopath Sherri Tenpenny could have avoided trouble if she had simply met the terms of her medical license.

The state medical board indefinitely suspended Tenpenny's medical license after practicing for nearly 39 years last week and fined her $3,000, based on her alleged refusal to participate in an investigation her lawyer Tom Renz deemed "bad faith." Tenpenny has no previous record of complaints or actions regarding her professional practice.

The board referred to approximately 350 complaints against Tenpenny, without providing any level of detail on them, as the basis for the investigation.

Communications officer Jerica Stewart told Just the News even the dates of the complaints were protected by Ohio law, making it impossible to discern how many were plausibly related to her June 8, 2021 testimony before the Ohio House. 

Speaking in favor of a bill to ban differential treatment based on COVID vaccine status, Tenpenny had mentioned reports of people "magnetized" by COVID vaccines as well as early adverse events including "myocardial infarction."
The latter was subsequently acknowledged by the CDC.

Social media users are "trying to make this [suspension] about her views on vaccines" or legislative testimony, but Tenpenny "never had a board complaint on any of those things," Yost said.

The state can't reveal details, not just to protect complainants but also practitioners who "may be unjustly accused," including Yost himself after he became attorney general, he said. 

He distinguished the due process afforded someone in a professional license investigation from that required in a criminal case. "You have to get your credentials and then you hold your license during good behavior," Yost said. If she had answered the subpoena and came in for a meeting, "it's very possible nothing would have come of that."

Yost disputed Just the News' comparing Yost's practices with Tenpenny to similar practices against accused students in university Title IX investigations, because "she does know what she's defending herself against."

Tenpenny's lawyer Renz responded incredulously when told Yost compared her situation to suspending a driver's license for refusal to take a breathalyzer. "They can't pull you over unless there's a ... just reason to start the investigation," just like a police officer can't legally enter a home based on a hidden complaint, Renz told Just the News.

Yost's office is trying to deny doctors the same due process that Yost's employees depend on to keep their jobs, Renz said. Tenpenny complied throughout the proceeding, including filing formal objections to the July 14 report and recommendations, he said.

At the board's Aug. 9 hearing on whether to accept the suspension recommendations, Assistant Attorney General James Wakley went so far as claiming that disclosure of the private complaints to Tenpenny, at any level of detail, would amount to "justice denied." 

Renz included clips of Wakley's comments in a weekend interview with his client, claiming the board took down its YouTube livestream of the hearing "even before we got out of the building." He provided a recording of Tenpenny's portion of the hearing and unofficial transcript to Just the News. Yost's office provided an audio recording, saying it didn't have video.

An Ohio lawmaker got Tenpenny off-topic at the 2021 hearing by asking her to elaborate on Tenpenny's discussion of "EMF frequencies" from a recent podcast.

"That was a thought," Tenpenny responded. "Right now we're all kind of hypothesizing … now we're finding [the vaccine spike protein] has a metal attached to it. I'm sure you've seen the pictures all over the internet" of people who have been "magnetized" by vaccination.

"There's been people who've long suspected that there was some sort of an interface yet to be defined … between what's being injected in these shots and all of the 5G towers — not proven yet, but we're trying to figure out what is it [sic] that's being transmitted to these unvaccinated people that are causing health problems," Tenpenny said, emphasizing how new the vaccines were.

Renz told Just the News that the lawmaker's question was a "setup" and his client's response was "naturally taken out of context and blown up in the media." The board's initial response was asking her to submit to a psychiatric evaluation, which was based on an "illegal purpose," he said.

"If we were to take Mr. Renz up on his procedural suggestions" of sharing basic allegations about complaints with Tenpenny, "what would happen is complete breakdown of the process of investigations," Wakley told the board at the Aug. 9 hearing.

"Every time somebody thinks, 'oh this investigation was brought in bad faith,' we'd have to run to court, we'd have to get a judge to sign off on it, despite the fact that we'd have to disclose the basis of the investigation," Wakley said. "We'd have to go through these steps over and over again. Justice delayed is justice denied." 

Such actions would stretch out cases over years, "and they'll be obstructed by people who have no concerns with what they've done," Wakley said. "We'd simply have hospitals intervening to say 'well, we won't provide records until you go to court and get an order.' We won't because we don't know what the basis of this is."

Audio file

In his weekend interview with Tenpenny, Renz called Wakley's argument "one of the most shocking things I have ever heard … There's no question we're going to deal with this in the courts" but "we need political reform" from the Legislature as well. Renz told Just the News he's in talks with two potential bill sponsors to protect doctors from similar situations.

Tenpenny first received a citation on Sept. 14, 2022 based on allegations that she failed to respond to board investigators, interrogatories, an investigatory deposition and "investigative office conference."

The July 14 report the board reviewed last week elaborated on attempts to notify Tenpenny, starting with an investigator dropping off a business card at her practice on July 14 — about five weeks after her legislative testimony. 

Tenpenny maintains multiple offices and her lawyer Renz told Just the News she travels frequently, making it unlikely she'd see a business card, while the board delivered a notice to an unknown person at the UPS Store where Renz keeps a mailbox. 

Renz called the board's process server's attempts characteristic of its "incompetence" throughout the proceeding, including giving Tenpenny different numbers of complaints against her "several times" and an investigator "admitt[ing] on record she didn't even know she could" go to court to compel Tenpenny to answer the subpoena.

Yost made the same charge against Renz — that Tenpenny's lawyer could have sued the state to block the allegedly bad-faith investigation but did not. It would not be a "well-founded" lawsuit, Yost said.

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