‘RE: President of the day’

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“Confidence is the feeling you have before you fully understand the situation.” – Quote from an e-mail by a top McLennan Community College executive regarding difficulties with John Wells, M.D.

Waco – E-mails that circulated between college officials about student statements regarding allegations of sexual harassment by former County Jail Doctor John Wells expose a total lack of confidentiality.

No one mentioned getting an opinion from the Open Records Division of the State Attorney General’s Office; likewise, no one voiced any objection whatsoever to turning over the sensitive information that is protected by federal law from disclosure to Waco Tribune-Herald Staff Writer Tommy Witherspoon for a news story about why Wells resigned his $330,000 a year position at the end of April.

OFFICIALS MADE AWARE OF ALLEGATIONS…

In fact, the flow of message traffic shows the chain of command at the college and at the McLennan County Jail were aware of the allegations made by students, and had been furnished with the materials in defiance – or perhaps ignorance – of federal law.

On February 19, Vocational Nursing Program Director Kim Sales-McGee e-mailed her boss: “I have all student statements and they are signed. Do you want me to email a copy to you? The meeting yesterday went well. I met with Captain Ricky Armstrong and the County HR (human resources) Director Amanda Talbert. They were very disturbed by what they read from the students. They informed me that they will open up an investigation and keep me posted. There is a possibility that they may need to speak with the students.”

TV MIGHT BE THERE…

A series of messages shows there was a mad scramble to place the burden of releasing the information on someone else’s shoulders, what with various conflicts in scheduling and out-of-town business trips. There were several mentions of how “TV might be there.”

Finally, they reached agreement to make one of their number “President of the Day.”

Title IX Coordinator Drew Canham, Ph.D., J.D., Vice President for Student Success, made the information available to Witherspoon with this cheerful message, “Please find attached our response to your open records request related to LVN Program student statements. I can make hard copies available to you if you would prefer…I hope this email finds you doing well.”

Title IX is a reference to a 1972 amendment to Federal Education laws prohibiting discrimination due to sex.

It was not until public information activist Randall Scott Gates made a Public Information Act request for the same information that was released to Witherspoon  of the Tribune-Herald that it was learned that the material previously released is protected by federal law, and that forwarding a copy to the AG’s office is in itself a violation of that law, since the information is confidential.

As Assistant Attorney General dressed down County Administrator Dustin Chapman, a lawyer by profession, for being in possession of the records and for forwarding them to his office.

NOBODY IN HERE BUT US CHICKENS…

Naturally,  officials of McLennan Community College attempted to pretend they had no idea what information Gates requested.

MCC President Johnette McKown wrote in reply to the request, “We are unsure of what information is being requested so we are asking you to clarify your request…” She said the AG’s letter mentioned “materials which were not delivered to the County by the College.”

Complaints by students triggered a policy change in which LVN students appeared at the jail for training on days when Wells was not in attendance because of things he said to female Hispanic pupils about sex and the cultural identity of Hispanic women.

When Wells complained to Sales-McGee about the situation, he included a reference to the quality of his instruction, which he said developed over a period of three years.

GOOD MEXICANS AND BAD MEXICANS…

Here are some samples of alleged statements reported by his students:

“He then started talking to us about one inmate that we observed him treating who had jaundice due to Excessive alcohol, this inmate was Hispanic he started telling us how this inmate was a ‘cholo’ (Hispanic gangster) and looked at ___ and stated saying how ________ _________ should be careful not to fall in love with an inmate. ”

The student went on to say that Wells said there are “good” Mexicans and “bad” Mexicans and the bad ones “want to run around doing drugs and stealing and the poor stupid women who support them, like young nurses who somehow get a good job and choose losers…He said he is partial to Mexican women, because they are good mothers, cooks, and don’t give lip. Then he went on to say he likes the skin color, curves, and black hair on Mexican women…”

Wells said “he knows how to chemically subdue someone so that they can feel everything that is going on but their body would be unable to move and that he knows places where you could scream and scream and no one would ever be able to hear you or find you.”

One of the women said, “I hope I never see you outside these walls,” and Wells reportedly took offense at her remark.

‘JUST GO AHEAD AND PUT A GLOCK IN HIS MOUTH…’

In another incident, Wells made a student feel disturbed “by how he treated the Hispanic inmate who was suffering of jaundice because he was talking to him in Spanish and saying ‘you like her?’ Then he told the inmate he should just go ahead and put a glock (Glock semiauto pistol) in his mouth and pull the trigger because he wasn’t worth anything if he continued to drink that way. It was a good rotation, up until Dr. Wells took us.”

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