Probe targets former U doctor

Medical board hears claims of sexual misconduct with patient

Amy Horst

The Minnesota Board of Medical Practice is investigating a former Boynton Health Service physician for sexual misconduct, according to documents posted on the board’s Web site last week.

The University dismissed Dr. Robert Woolley from Boynton in September 2001 after a woman who was his patient and co-worker said he touched her inappropriately during patient visits and work.

He now works at various local clinics on a temporary basis.

The co-worker also said she “began to feel stalked by” Woolley and eventually obtained a restraining order against him.

Woolley said the relationship was consensual, but that will not necessarily clear him of the allegations, said Ruth Martinez, complaint review unit supervisor of the medical practice board.

“There’s always that power differential in such a relationship, which may or may not mean that there is coercion, but certainly that could exist,” Martinez said.

Woolley said what happened is much different from what the medical practice board included in its documents.

Although he filled prescriptions for the woman who brought the complaint against him, Woolley said, she was never his patient.

“I have no doubt that legally I’m correct, but the problem is that being legally correct isn’t always enough to win,” Woolley said.

He said his co-worker accused him of harassment because their alleged relationship ended badly.

After his termination from Boynton, Woolley filed a defamation suit against the University. The case was dismissed by a state district court in October, but Woolley appealed the case. It is currently pending in an appeals court.

The University expects a decision within 90 days, said William Donohue, University deputy general counsel.

“It’s our expectation that (the appeals court) will uphold the ruling of the district, because we think that decision is in accordance with the application of the law in this case,” Donohue said.

Boynton is usually very proud of the work its doctors do, said Dave Golden, Boynton public health director.

“This is a really unusual occurrence,” Golden said.

He said Boynton doctors sign a code of ethics every year and are generally very sensitive to issues of sexual misconduct because of the age and vulnerability of the population they serve.

Julie Sweitzer, director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, said her department investigated the case, which general counsel officials said eventually led to Woolley’s dismissal.

Usually, the University can use less drastic methods of discipline or educate employees as to why the conduct was wrong, Sweitzer said.

The case being investigated by the medical practice board will go before an administrative law judge who will decide whether there should be disciplinary action against Woolley.

If the judge decides there should be disciplinary action, the medical practice board will decide which penalties to pursue.