Two state lawmakers linked to a TBI investigation admit they used their political influence to force the Tennessee Board of Nursing to reconsider suspensions of nurse practitioners.
The Channel 4 I-Team first broke the story Monday how both lawmakers and employees of the Tennessee Department of Health are under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for possible official misconduct and false reporting.
Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, who will soon be interviewed by the TBI, said he welcomes the investigation.
"Let's just see whose skirts are dirty. It bespeaks of a political hash job from Nashville. Wasting taxpayer money, chasing down conservative lawmakers who are doing the right thing, is silliest to the extreme," Shipley said.
TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm told the Channel 4 I-Team Monday that they are investigating possible misconduct and/or false reporting into the rescinding of suspended licenses of nurse practitioners under questionable circumstances.
Helm said members of the Tennessee General Assembly are also being investigated, but would not name the lawmakers.
Employees of the state Department of Health were interviewed at the TBI's Nashville headquarters last week.
The TBI will now interview Shipley about whether he and other state lawmakers improperly used their influence to force the nursing board to reinstate the suspended licenses of three nurse practitioners.
The nurses are accused in internal reports filed before the nursing board, obtained by the Channel 4 I-Team, of overprescribing medicine that may have lead to the deaths of two patients.
The nurses all worked at the Appalachian Medical Clinic in Johnson City, TN.
The Channel 4 I-Team has learned that the sister of Rep. Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough, worked at that clinic, and Ford's wife was a patient there.
Shipley also went to church with one of the nurses under investigation.
When the nursing board suspended those nurses' licenses, both Ford and Shipley introduced separate legislation that would have created an oversight committee over the nursing board and would have changed the board's own rules for serious discipline of nurses.
But Ford withdrew his legislation and Shipley shelved his bill when the nursing board opted to suddenly re-examine evidence in the nurses' cases.
Ford said he was approached by a liaison of the nursing board.
"Their liaison came to me and said, 'Look Dale, we're willing to take a second look at this evidence, and when they did, they did the right thing,' and I did the right thing, I withdrew the bill," Ford said.
The nursing board gave the nurses back their licenses.
Both lawmakers said they only fought for the nurses because the board's methods of suspension were unfair and they welcome the TBI investigation.
"I don't have anything to hide. They can investigate any aspect of my life," Ford said.
"The difference between me and another lawmaker will be this: I ain't going away. I'm not going to hide in the corner. I'm coming right back," Shipley said.