AUGUSTA — Delayed in part by the sheer size of the case the state compiled against Lewiston oral surgeon Jan Kippax, the controversial dentist’s hearing on his professional fate has been put off again until at least May.

Hearing officer Rebekah Smith ordered the delay of a proposed April 14 hearing because there are “many prehearing rulings” that have to be dealt with before the case is ready for the Maine Board of Dental Practice to consider.

In the meantime, Kippax is free to practice dentistry in Maine and two other states despite a preliminary finding by the dental board that he had “put the health and safety of his patients and staff in immediate jeopardy” and if allowed to continue “in his reckless and harmful way” patients would “suffer dire consequences.”

Kippax has denied all of the allegations against him, according to a motion filed by his lawyer.

Initially suspended for 30 days pending a hearing, Kippax has been allowed to work as a dentist again since March 18 and appears unlikely to face what amounts to an administrative trial before the board until at least May.

In response to a Freedom of Access Act request from the Sun Journal, the board released some of the paperwork involved in the case Thursday. It showed an effort by Kippax and his lawyer to offer an active defense and a slack pace by state regulators required to provide the dentist with information about the charges that led to his emergency suspension on Feb 15.

It also appears that a hearing would likely take many days given the complexity of the case, which relies on 18 separate complaints from patients about the care they received between December 2014 and last summer.

There is also a possibility the state and Kippax could come to an agreement without bringing the case to a hearing for resolution. Smith said state lawyers had to provide suggested wording for one this week, but there is no hint of what the terms might be.

Former patients, including one of the 18 involved in the case, have told the Sun Journal a variety of stories of what they consider subpar care over the years, including claims Kippax pulled the wrong teeth, sliced off part of someone’s lip and failed to provide painkillers.

The paperwork provided by the dental board helps explain why it failed to hold a hearing within the 30-day period when it temporarily suspended Kippax’s license, which was as long as it had the power to do.

The suspension began Feb. 16 and ended March 17 with initial plans to hold what could be a multi-day hearing on the case on March 10. At an adjudicatory hearing, the dental panel has the power to revoke a dental license permanently or choose from among a wide range of lesser options.

On Feb. 21, a hearing officer assigned to the case, Judith Shaw, sent an email to Kippax’s attorney, James Belleau, and an assistant attorney general, Jim Bowie, who has a role akin to a prosecutor in these sorts of cases involving professional licenses.

In her note, Shaw sought to arrange a conference call during which they could talk about “a pending motion for reconsideration” by Kippax, and a pending petition to throw out subpoenas issued by the dental board chairwoman, Dr. Geraldine Schneider of Auburn. No other details were mentioned.

The following day, Belleau sent a lengthy letter seeking to delay the March 10 hearing date for a variety of reasons, including a charge that the board suspended Kippax’s license “without due process” or adequate evidence.

“To make matters worse,” the motion said, “the board is inherently biased and must be precluded from acting further on the complaints.”

Belleau also pointed out that with so many different complaints against Kippax, there wasn’t enough time to prepare for a hearing. He said it can take weeks to get ready for a hearing on a single complaint, let alone 18.

Moreover, the lawyer said, the board had yet to provide any exhibits, the names of any experts involved and the witness list that Kippax would need to prepare adequately, all information he is entitled to have.

Belleau said Kippax also planned to depose board members and members of the committee that investigated the complaints, including the panel’s executive director, Penny Vaillancourt. He also intended to ask for dismissal of the complaints on the grounds that the board is so biased against him that it cannot serve as an impartial tribunal to weigh the evidence fairly.

Belleau also said he would seek separate hearings on each complaint rather than dealing with all 18 at once so that each could be considered on its merits “and not be tainted” by the volume of complaints.

At the same time Kippax asked for more time, he also informed the board that he would not go along with leaving his suspension in place beyond the March 17 date that the temporary order expired.

Belleau said failing to grant more time would be “fundamentally unfair and violate Dr. Kippax’s due process rights” given that he would have less than two weeks to prepare even if the state turned over everything required immediately.

He also said that he would be out of state on a long-planned trip during crucial preparation days.

Finally, Belleau pointed out that the board “has had these complaints for months and has waited over a year to take any action on them.”

On Feb. 24, Shaw agreed to postpone the hearing based on Belleau’s lack of availability. She did not set a new date. The dental board figured it would be held on April 14, its next regular meeting date.

But on March 20, a new hearing officer, Smith, agreed to continue the case beyond the April date in an order that followed another telephone conference a few days earlier that included Belleau, Bowie and another assistant attorney general, John Bolton.

Smith’s order indicated that her predecessor as hearing officer had issued a decision on the motion to reconsider, which remains secret. She agreed that it ought to be presented to the board.

Belleau indicated he planned to depose Vaillancourt and Shaw, though the order doesn’t say why. It does say, though, that the attorney considered the board’s executive director “essentially a party to the proceeding aligned with the state” because she served on the committee that probed the many complaints against Kippax.

Smith didn’t set a new date for the hearing, but noted that Belleau will be out of town during the board’s regularly scheduled May 12 meeting, which may indicate it won’t happen until after that.

There is nothing in the paperwork that sheds light on the board’s concern about the legal help it received from the Attorney General’s Office.

Dr. Jan Kippax’s dental office is at the intersection of Main Street and Mountain Avenue in Lewiston.


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