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Mar 28, 2012

Texas State Board of Dental Examiners Update - Executive Director Steps Down

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Having served previously as the General Counsel for the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners ("TSBDE"), I was not surprised to learn that there are many within the dental community who remain critical of the TSBDE, its enforcement practices, and its policies; many of which are highly controversial.   If one goes back and examines the history of the TSBDE, it is an agency that has been plagued by sharp criticism from the public, lawmakers, and those that it regulates.  It is an agency that has been shut down/closed for a period of time by the Texas Legislature for underperformance or, frankly, lack of performance.  As a side note, this occurred prior to my tenure as an in-house attorney at the TSBDE. 

Given the TSBDE’s history and its ongoing concerns, much of which I experience currently in private practice representing clients before the TSBDE, it appears that the TSBDE continues to repeat its past and it continues to live each day and each fiscal year similar to the film Groundhog Day; the premise has the film's star, Bill Murray, repeating the same day over and over again.  With this as the backdrop, it was not much of a surprise to learn that the TSBDE’s Executive Director, Ms. Sherri Meek (formerly Sherri Sanders) had resigned earlier this month.  Officially, Ms. Meek’s resignation takes effect on August 31, 2012.  The current acting E.D. is Glenn Parker, the former Executive Director of the Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners.  Although the official reason provided by Ms. Meek was for “personal reasons,” the timing is curious given that on April 11, 2012, at 10:30 A.M., the TSBDE staff is scheduled to appear before lawmakers to address ongoing issues and concerns with the TSBDE.

It is expected that the hearing, which has been scheduled to illicit testimony about health registries maintained by the state, will also include a forum for legislators to address the concerns of the TSBDE and some of its practices and policies.  One of the most highly controversial issues, arising well after I left, allows Board members to act as expert witnesses in disciplinary cases involving dentists.  Because Board members ultimately have the final say in terms of discipline, there is no denying that this is highly prejudicial to dentists who face disciplinary action.  When questioned on this topic, the TSBDE’s current General Counsel, Joy Sparks, provides, “[n]o board member has ever asked for permission to serve as an expert.”  TSBDE counsel further explains that she “would have absolutely no problem” with an outright ban on this policy. 

It appears that the hearing may likely be contentious as TSBDE opponents and adversary groups plan on appearing and speaking out against the TSBDE.  Ms. Meek, however, is not expected to attend the hearing since she is no longer serving in an official capacity as the TSBDE’s Executive Director.  Anyone with an interest before the TSBDE and how it disciplines its licensees should make an effort to attend since the hearing is open to the public.  The notice for the hearing can be found here.

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