AUGUSTA — The state has dropped its effort to prove that Lewiston oral surgeon Jan Kippax did anything wrong in the wake of complaints from 18 patients who accused him of misconduct.

Having already cleared him for his treatment of five of the patients, the Maine Board of Dental Practice has agreed to dismiss all of the 13 remaining complaints.

That means that after three years of investigations and hearings into alleged professional wrongdoing, the state never found a single instance in which it could show the longtime dentist did anything improper.

The decision “proves what we have argued all along: The board’s decision to suspend Dr. Kippax’s license without first affording him due process was an egregious error based on false allegations and a shamefully biased investigation,” said Auburn attorney James Belleau, who represented Kippax.

“These cases — and the tremendously public manner in which rumor and innuendo were spread and suborned by the board’s executive director — demonstrate the importance of due process and serve as a stark example of why licensing boards, attorneys general, members of the media and all of us should never shoot first and ask questions later,” the lawyer said Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, that rush to judgment and character assassination is exactly what happened here,” Belleau said.

In giving up on the case against Kippax, dental overseers also agreed to issue a letter of guidance to Kippax reminding him of his professional responsibilities

In a Dec. 19 letter to Kippax, the Maine Board of Dental Practice told him it was “not making a finding that any violation of board statutes or rules has occurred” in relation to the complaints “but wants to issue this letter of guidance to reinforce your knowledge and appreciation” of the topics raised by patients.

Dr. Lisa Howard, the board’s chairwoman, said the guidance letter would be kept on file for five years and considered if the panel received any new complaints about Kippax.

One of the patients whose case was dropped, Donna Deigan, said she is “completely disturbed, disgusted and disappointed. He just cannot get away with this.”

She said, though, that she had been notified that “my case has now been dropped.”

Belleau said that during the long public case brought against Kippax, the dentist’s “career and livelihood have been decimated” and he has “endured substantial and sustained legal costs.”

Moreover, the lawyer said, Kippax “has lost patients and has been forced to let employees go. He has been painted in a tremendously negative light on television, in the newspapers and on social media. The state has wasted vast amounts of taxpayer money prosecuting these specious cases.”

In addition, Belleau said, Kippax’s patients included many who were “generally underserved.”

“He remains unable to serve them because of the board’s erroneous decision to suspend his license,” the attorney said. “As a result of that decision, individuals have been deprived of his care” and many “have decided to forgo medically necessary oral surgery services.”

Others, he said, “have had to travel well outside the community to find oral surgery services.”

“All of this was unnecessary,” Belleau said. “All of this was the decision of the board and its executive director.”

The board began investigating complaints about Kippax in 2016.

In the wake of that probe, Belleau said, the board’s executive director, Penny Vaillancourt, and one of its members pushed for a finding that Kippax had “put the health and safety of patients in immediate jeopardy” despite failing to consult with an oral surgery expert about the case.

The board then suspended Kippax’s license “without affording him any opportunity to defend himself,” the attorney said.

Deigan was one of 18 patients whose 2016 complaints were cited by the dental panel when they suspended Kippax from practice in February 2017, almost a year after they began looking into the case against him.

When it issued the suspension, the panel said that “if he is allowed to continue to practice in his reckless and harmful way, innocent patients are destined to continue to suffer dire consequences.”

But when the board failed to hold a hearing on the case within 30 days, Kippax was allowed to go back to work. By midsummer, his office was open for business.

The panel began to hear complaints from five of the 18 patients late in 2017. The state attorney general’s office served as a sort of prosecutor while five board members constituted what amounts to a jury who heard the case.

Only after the five patients had testified against Kippax — and the dentist had vehemently denied doing anything untoward — did the state put an expert witness on the stand.

Belleau noted that it took 10 months — “after pushing the false narrative that Dr. Kippax was an imminent risk to his patients, and after severely harming his reputation and career” — before state regulators “finally got around to asking an oral surgeon whether they were correct.”

After hearing the facts laid out, the state’s expert said Kippax had not deviated from the standards of care required for an oral surgeon, which effectively gutted the state’s case.

After his testimony, the board dismissed the complaints related to the five patients on which the hearing focused.

“That, however, did not end things,” Belleau said.

“Because the board had not reconsidered its February 2017 immediate suspension decision, Dr. Kippax had lost his ability to provide care to patients who receive MaineCare. He lost hospital privileges, and he lost countless patients and prospective patients based on the false allegations,” the lawyer said.

“In light of the dismissals, and in light of the absence of any expert testimony that Dr. Kippax had deviated from the standard of care, we asked the board to reconsider the immediate suspension and the executive director’s suggestion that the 13 other patients’ complaints be tried,” he said.

Belleau said that despite everything “that had come to light, and without any new evidence of wrongdoing,” the panel last March refused to dismiss the rest of the charges and “instead trudged forward” by referring the 13 remaining patients’ complaints to the district court.

Nothing ever happened in court and it appears the state couldn’t find solid enough grounds to try a second time to prove Kippax did anything unprofessional.

“It now appears, after two years of protracted litigation — in which not a single allegation against Dr. Kippax was proven — the board has concluded it cannot prove the allegations and has given up its prosecution of Dr. Kippax,” Belleau said.

In its letter to Kippax, the board laid out the standards of care that dentists are supposed to follow, from minimizing pain to keeping their offices clean. It does not allege that Kippax violated any of the standards.

It also notes that the panel “appreciates your cooperation with the complaint process.”

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Dr. Jan Kippax during a 2017 hearing before the Maine Board of Dental Examiners, which recently decided to abandon all remaining charges of professional misconduct against the Lewiston oral surgeon. The decision means that overseers did not find him in violation of any dentistry standards after three years of investigations and hearings. (Sun Journal file photo)

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