Monday, November 7, 2011

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Former Winkler County Memorial Hospital Physician Sentenced for Scheme to Fire Nurses In 2009

KERMIT A former Winkler County Memorial Hospital physician today pleaded guilty to misusing his position and coordinating with local officials to retaliate against two nurses who filed an anonymous complaint against him with the Texas Medical Board.

Rolando Arafiles Jr., 59, pleaded guilty to two third-degree felonies misuse of official information and retaliation. Visiting Judge Robert H. Moore III sentenced Arafiles to five years deferred adjudication probation, 60 days in the Andrews County Jail and a $5,000 fine. Arafiles also must surrender his license to practice medicine.

With today’s guilty plea, Arafiles admits to urging former Winkler County Sheriff Robert Roberts and County Attorney Scott Tidwell to retaliate against Anne Mitchell and Vickilyn Galle. Both nurses worked with Arafiles at the county hospital and filed an anonymous complaint with the Texas Medical Board alleging that the physician acted improperly. Subsequently, Arafiles removed patient information from the hospital that Roberts ultimately used to determine the nurses’ identity.

Earlier this year, Roberts was convicted on related charges and removed from office. Former County Attorney Tidwell was tried and found guilty by a Howard County jury last month. He is currently appealing his conviction and has also been suspended from office. Former hospital administrator Stan Wiley pleaded guilty to related charges last March.

In June 2009, the nurses were improperly terminated after the sheriff and Arafiles unlawfully determined their identities. Ten days later, County Attorney Tidwell’s office sought the nurses’ indictment and the Winkler County Sheriff’s Department arrested the nurses for alleged criminal conduct they did not commit. A jury later acquitted one of the nurses, while charges against the other nurse were dropped by the prosecution.