Suspended VA doctor pleads not guilty to drug charges

Dr. Barbara Temeck bracing for 2-year legal fight
Posted at 3:15 PM, May 24, 2017

CINCINNATI - A suspended Cincinnati VA senior administrator, Dr. Barbara Temeck, pleaded not guilty to three federal drug charges Wednesday and was released on her own recognizance.

The former chief of staff at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center was indicted May 3 for illegal distribution of a controlled substance.

Dr. Temeck declined to comment as she arrived for her arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Stephanie Bowman. Her criminal attorney, Ben Dusing, repeated his claim that Dr. Temeck is being “selectively prosecuted” for calling attention to waste and fraud at the Cincinnati VA.

“She’s doing OK,” Dusing said after the hearing. “Obviously a federal prosecution is not what you expect when you speak your mind and it’s an intimidating thing. But Dr. Temeck will not be intimidated. She stands on principal and it’s very admirable.”

The VA has yet to fire Dr. Temeck, but her civil attorney, Ken Hawley, said he expects that to happen soon. He also expects a two-year legal fight as he pursues claims through “a grievance process set forth in VA rules and by statute.” Hawley added that the Office of Special Counsel hasn’t made a final determination on Dr. Temeck’s whistleblower complaint against the VA, which alleges doctors affiliated with the University of Cincinnati collected VA pay for hours they did not work.

That allegation was deemed “unfounded” by a special administrative panel in a report obtained by WCPO through the Freedom of Information Act. The heavily redacted report said the special inquiry board interviewed Cincinnati VA employees and reviewed documents before concluding that Dr. Temeck “was empowered” to “take appropriate corrective actions” before she was demoted if she had “actual evidence of wrongdoing.”

Dr. Temeck’s indictment followed a series of investigations triggered by whistleblower complaints involving Dr. Temeck. She was demoted in February, 2016 and suspended indefinitely by the Department of Veterans Affairs on April 22, 2017.

The Scripps Washington Bureau and WCPO investigated the whistleblower allegations over several months, resulting in a February 2016 report that Dr. Temeck improperly prescribed painkillers for the wife of her former boss. She relinquished her DEA registration in March of 2016.

Dr. Temeck faces maximum jail time of up to 20 years if convicted and potential fines totaling $750,000, U.S. Attorney Kyle Healey said.

The indictment alleges Dr. Temeck illegally distributed Valium on two dates in 2012 and 2013 and Hydrocodone in 2013.