Opiate for the Mrs.

When laws are broken, somebody's got to be punished. In the case of Cindy McCain, that somebody is Tom Gosinski

January 13, 1993: Chalk up another day at AVMT.
Yesterday was going great until I got a call from Cindy McCain who stated that she heard I was mad because I wasn't going to India.

I explained to Cindy that when she told me I was not going to be traveling to Calcutta I was upset because of the inconvenience that the last-minute change in plans had caused.

. . . It is evident to me that AVMT is in serious need of an organizational change. . . . Our shot gun approach to providing medical care has minimal impact when a focused approach on a specific area or type of care could significantly impact the target constituency. . . .

January 15, 1993: Well yesterday was certainly a bang!
For the first time in my life I was fired from a job. Cindy asked me to come to her office so that we might speak. She immediately handed me a termination letter and began a speech of praise. She thanked me for my contribution to AVMT, for my loyalty and stated she would be 'forever thankful' for what I had done for her newest daughter, Bridget McCain.

End of chapter.

Tom Gosinski knew something was up that day, because Cindy McCain was actually in the office. His co-workers would later tell a county attorney investigator that he took the news well, but Gosinski says his outward appearance was deceiving.

"I don't know that I was that well-composed on the inside," he says. McCain allowed him to stay through January, at his request, and offered a month's severance pay.

Typed on AVMT stationery, McCain's letter read in part: "It is with deep regret and a heavy heart that I must terminate your position with AVMT. Your termination is due to the decline in contributions and our inability to continue to pay you at this time. Your service both to a small nonprofit such as we are and more importantly to the suffering peoples of the world is commendable. . . ." She offered her assistance in finding another job and signed the letter "Respectfully."

Fellow workers Orrick and Walker took Gosinski to Lombardi's restaurant at Arizona Center for a farewell lunch on his last day; McCain was invited, but didn't attend. Gosinski was hurt.

Hurt turned to disbelief, he says, when he learned he was not eligible for unemployment benefits because AVMT, as a nonprofit organization, has the luxury of opting not to pay into the kitty.

Gosinski suspected that prescriptions had been filled in his name without his knowledge. So in February 1993, a month after his termination, Gosinski met with a representative from the DEA whose name he refuses to reveal. A DEA official confirms that Gosinski first contacted the agency in "early 1993."

He says he did not go to the DEA intending to blow the whistle, but was concerned that his name might become embroiled in a future investigation. He posed what he calls a "what if" scenario: "If a person knows that prescriptions have been written in their name, and they never met with the doctor and they don't know the whereabouts of the drugs, what is their responsibility? And I was told it was my responsibility to turn it in. So at that moment I began to cooperate with the DEA."

Gosinski says he told the DEA of his suspicions, and an agent called Gosinski back to show him copies of two prescriptions written in his name, by Dr. Max Johnson at Cindy McCain's behest. Gosinski says he told the DEA he had no knowledge of the prescriptions. Gosinski says he went to Lahr Pharmacy in north-central Phoenix and asked if any prescriptions had been filled in his name. Indeed, two had; the pharmacist gave him copies, he says.

It had been months since his departure from AVMT, and he couldn't find a job. After sending out hundreds of résumés for positions in government relations and personnel, he took a part-time job at a gift shop owned by friends. He was humiliated and broke.

In late 1993, he was hired as a salesman at Borders Books & Music in Phoenix. He applied with his old employer, America West, as a new hire and got a job selling tour packages. Gosinski works 80 hours a week and makes half of what he made at AVMT.

The more he thought about AVMT, the more he became convinced that he had been wrongfully terminated. He believed that after Cindy McCain learned that he was bellyaching about prescription-writing practices--and after John McCain had been sworn into the U.S. Senate--he became expendable.

Under state law, he had just one year from the day he was fired to file a civil lawsuit against his former employer. A local labor attorney, Stan Lubin, agreed to take his case on a contingency basis, but warned Gosinski he wouldn't represent him if the case went to court--unless Gosinski could scrape together the money to pay him up-front.

Gosinski filed his lawsuit in January 1994, but kept his complaint vague and withheld specific allegations about Cindy McCain. In February, Lubin wrote a letter to one of McCain's attorneys, Gary Stuart, asking for a $250,000 settlement.

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