Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Polk maintains he quit for health reasons, denies knowing he had been placed on 'special leave' amid allegation of drinking on job

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Former state health commissioner Hiram Polk told Kentucky Health News at the end of April that he left his position in September "strictly" over a disagreement with "middle management" over lack of funding for an early-childhood anti-drug program that he had championed, and because of his health.

But records in the internationally renowned surgeon's state personnel file show he had been placed on "special leave" to allow the Cabinet for Health and Family Services time to "investigate allegations of misconduct; i.e., the consumption and possession of alcohol during work hours while on Cabinet premises."

Dr. Hiram Polk
Polk denied knowledge of such an investigation and said "I did not know" that the special-leave notice had been placed in his file.

Asked if the charge was true or not, Polk said, "You are the first person I heard from about it. I have no knowledge of either possession or use."

He also said, "I am not aware now or then" that he had been accused of drinking on the job. Later, he said he had never seen his personnel file, and "It never occurred to me to do so."

Noting that the documents indicated that the leave notice was hand-delivered to him, he said he remembered Deputy Secretary Tim Feeley delivering a letter and suggesting "I ought to take this leave," but "I don't remember what was in the letter or anything else. . . . I told you as much about this as I know and you are talking from a document about me that I have never seen."

Doug Hogan, a spokesman for the cabinet, confirmed in an e-mail that the "special investigation leave action" was hand-delivered to Polk.

Hogan was asked about the timeline of documents in the file. He said Polk's resignation letter was dated Sunday, Sept. 17, but was not transmitted to the cabinet until after he had worked Sept. 18 and part of Sept. 19 -- the date of the  "special leave" notification letter was delivered.

Polk said it was his decision to resign. "I resigned because I was having medical trouble and had been told that I ought to have a pacemaker for a very slow heartbeat and that is not a minor thing in somebody my age," he said. He is 82.

Asked if there was anything else he wanted to say, Polk said he wanted to clarify that his disagreements with the cabinet had to do with "middle management" and had nothing to do with former Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, who resigned from her position in late January to run for Congress in Louisville.

In the earlier interview, Polk said, “The middle management people were essentially Vickie Glisson, and she's middle management – the whole thing is. So she did not agree with the expenditure of the money.” Glisson declined to comment.

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