Vermont’s new top cop key figure in prescription drug records scandal

Remember last year’s scuttlebutt over the Vermont State Police’s illegal, warrantless seizures (or at least demands) of prescription drug records from a few vermont pharamcies? It was a story broken at this website that hit the traditional media almost immediately – most notably the Rutland Herald/Times Argus and the Mark Johnson show. A reminder:

Based on confirmation from law enforcement sources, pharmacies that were approached by the State Police on Friday November 30th and from legal sources representing people affected by State Police conduct last Friday, GMD can add the following to the reporting that has occurred already.
  • The Department of Public Safety was planning last weeks pharmacy checks (“Fishing Derby Friday”) for several weeks.
  • The State Police visited multiple pharmacies on Friday November 30th.
  • At least two three pharmacies were told to by the State Police to turn over patient profiles for every patient who received a schedule II prescription from that pharmacy.
  • At least one pharmacy was told it would be required to update the patient profile information with the police every two weeks.
  • At several pharmacies the police merely introduced themselves to the pharmacist, gave their business cards and asked the pharmacist to call the police officer if they encountered any suspicious behavior such as indications of “Doctor shopping” or prescription fraud.
  • Late Friday, due to intense push back and complaints from pharmacists who were concerned about requests from the Vermont State Police that they reveal confidential and federally protected medical information about their customers, State Police management sent an email to all State Police involved with the pharmacy checks throughout the state instructing them to cease the pharmacy checks. After the email went out, Fish Derby Friday ceased (for now).

The story moved quickly, and the state police went through most of the stages of grief in the course of a week. First there was denial. From behind the scenes came reports of – if not anger, at least annoyance. Then came bargaining, as the State Police Spokesperson on the damage control beat suggested that there may have been a grain of truth, but that it was one incident… or maybe it was a misunderstanding… but that it certainly wasn’t part of a coordinated, intentional attempt to collect vast amounts of personal data from Vermonters without warrants or even suspicion. The bargaining imploded rather quickly when that spokesperson was confronted on air during the Mark Johnson Show with the reality that it was more widespread than the officer was willing to admit.

Although there were no public signs of depression, by the end of the week they were into acceptance, as they held a “mistakes were made” press conference (although there was never an acknowledgment that that this was part of an intentional program, as some observers believed.

Still, the officer in charge of media spin was caught in some serious BS:

Just up from the VT Press Bureau (h/t DB):
The Vermont State Police admitted Friday that detectives recently asked three pharmacies to hand over all their information on patients prescribed powerful painkillers, despite a directive from state law enforcement officials not to do so.

Lt. John Flanagan said three State Police detectives requested that information from three pharmacies in Vermont during the last two weeks, but that supervisors have now put a stop to that effort.

“Mistakes were made,” Flanagan said. “From our perspective this is a training issue and we have taken steps to remedy it.”

This directly and completely contradicts what Major Tom L’Esperance was desperately spinning saying on Mark Johnson’s show. In that appearance (and you should listen to the podcast – it would seem to be a complete fantasyland account based on what we now know), he insisted it was an isolated misunderstanding at one pharmacy, and proceeded with an elaborately detailed counter-history of the incident. I’m not saying he personally made it up – but somebody sure did. Circling the wagons doesn’t work when the wheels all fall off.

Yup. The officer on point in the spinning of tales (if not the eventual mea culpa) was Major Tom L’Esperance. The guy just promoted by the Douglas Administration to head the Vermont State Police.


2 thoughts on “Vermont’s new top cop key figure in prescription drug records scandal

  1. This Officer has done a fine job throughout his career. He’s clearly a professional. His friends/colleagues are guilty of violating the constitution and he told a lie in order to stick it to the drug addicts bad guys? So what? That’s the job.

    We’re in a WAR On Drugs! Haven’t you heard?

    The scope of the violation shows initiative and the lying shows loyalty. He’ll do fine in this role.

    I’m only half-kidding.

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