Dangerous Duo

Husband-wife politicos are helping themselves at the expense of the elderly and infirm

The board voted unanimously on February 5 to request Connie Thompson's resignation. The board stated its reasons in a February 25 letter to Connie Thompson, a copy of which I obtained late Friday.

"The Board is asking for your resignation because it believes you have been using your Board membership to promote your personal interests rather than to serve the public interest.

"It is the Board's determination that you have repeatedly acted independently concerning Board business, without the Board's knowledge or consent and contrary to the Board's positions. Your inappropriate conduct has been disruptive and detrimental to the Board's ability to function and conduct business.

Connie and Mark Thompson
Connie and Mark Thompson

"Therefore, the Board hereby asks that you resign."

Such a rebuke would spur most people to quickly dash off a letter expressing thanks for the opportunity to serve the public but allowing how it's time to pursue other interests. But not Connie Thompson -- who is acting an awful lot like disgraced former Corporation Commission member Jim Irvin and bracing herself for a fight.

"I haven't made up my mind" whether to resign, she told me late Friday afternoon before the interview disintegrated and she ended the call.

Connie Thompson hung up on me after I started questioning her about her October 23, 2001, board application.

The application, which Connie Thompson certified to be true, includes a question that states: "To your knowledge, have any formal charges of professional misconduct, criminal misdemeanor or a felony ever been filed against you in any jurisdiction?"

Connie Thompson checked the "no" box.

Which is a lie.

In 1982, a grand jury out of Pima County returned a two-count indictment that charged Connie Thompson, then known as Connie Stacey Lynn Lutz, with hindering prosecution and obstruction of a criminal investigation. The recent AG investigation turned up those charges.

The May 28, 1982, indictment charged Connie "with the intent to hinder the apprehension, prosecution, conviction or punishment of Alan Robert Terry for first degree murder."

Now that's something one doesn't easily forget.

The Pima County attorney dropped the charges against Connie in August 1982. But that doesn't change what should have been the proper answer to the question on Connie Thompson's board application of whether she had ever been charged with a felony.

Pressed to explain what happened in 1982 and why she failed to disclose the grand jury felony indictment, Connie Thompson hung up the phone.

She knows she doesn't have to deal with the press. And she knows there is little the state can do to get her off the board even though she lied on her application and has been asked to resign.

Dora Vasquez, director of the governor's office of boards and commissions, says there is no provision in state law that allows the board to forcibly remove Connie Thompson if she refuses to resign. Not even Governor Janet Napolitano can get rid of Connie Thompson, Vasquez says.

So it appears that nothing can stop Connie Thompson until her term thankfully expires on January 1, 2005.

Don't think for a moment that the Thompsons' self-serving behavior is an aberration when it comes to protecting the elderly from abuses in nursing homes and assisted-care living centers.

The legislation that strips away the right to sue health-care facilities, including hospitals, was sponsored by Representative Phil Hanson, a Republican from Peoria and a retired hospital executive.

Hanson says he sponsored the amendment at the request of the Arizona Hospital and Health Care Association -- a powerful group that supported Hanson in his privately financed election campaign. Hanson says he's no longer a member of the group and told me he didn't make financial contributions to it, either. Apparently, he forgot about the $150 he gave to its PAC last year, a contribution sizable enough to put him into the group's "Player's Club."

At a February 19 House Health Committee hearing moments before Hanson sneaked the amendment exempting health-care facilities from civil litigation into HB 2439 without a proper reading or opportunity for debate, he belittled the testimony of a witness who complained about a health-care facility allowing a patient to sit in soiled diapers for three hours.

"I don't think that rises to the level of gross negligence," he said. "Negligence, yes. Mistake, yes. . . . But it's not gross negligence."

The operative word here is "gross."

HB 2439 also raises the legal standard of when abuse takes place in a health-care facility for the elderly from simple negligence to "gross negligence."

Which means in the brutal world of health care embraced by industry advocates like Hanson and Mark Thompson, it's okay for the elderly to stew helplessly for hours in their own excrement.

After all, Hanson says old people are delirious anyway.

"When you're older and senile, time has no meaning," he says.

Thankfully, time still does have meaning for most of us.

Come November, it will be time to boot Phil Hanson and Mark Thompson out of office.

E-mail john.dougherty@newtimes.com, or call 602-229-8445.

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