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Instead in 1993 then-county Commissioner Pedro Reboredo hired Gonzalez as a special assistant. Reboredo had longstanding political and business ties to Nicaragua. He was a major supporter of President Arnoldo Alemán, for whom he hosted election-campaign fundraisers. (Alemán has since been convicted of embezzling millions of public dollars. The Miami Herald has reported that Reboredo was the legal director of a company Alemán may have used to launder some of that money.)
Reboredo, you may remember, has had his own problems. In 2001 he pleaded no contest to exploiting his office for keeping two no-show employees on his payroll. He was forced to resign from the commission. But by then Reboredo had successfully placed Gonzalez at the county's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
That hire boggles the mind. What kind of place would employ a doctor who misdiagnosed at least seventeen patients, when the position required him to "review inmate medical records"? And it wasn't easy. Reboredo had to lean on ex-county manager Armando Vidal, who in turn had to seek absolution from the county attorney's office -- which he got, sort of. In a December 19, 1997, memo, county attorney Robert Ginsburg responded to Vidal's question whether "a county employee possessing a revoked medical license may work as a medical contract compliance specialist." Ginsburg's conclusion: "Based upon the attached job description, and the legal authority reviewed, the employee technically appears to be able to work as a medical contract specialist since a valid medical license is not required by the job description."
That's all Vidal needed to please Reboredo, so it's possible the ex-manager never even read the last paragraph of the memo. It states, "The attached job description, however, ... is sufficiently general to permit acts that could require medical licensure.... In light of the fact that the subject employee has had his license revoked, the county would likely be liable if the employee were to be found negligent in the performance of his duties. Whether the county would want to incur this potential risk is an administrative decision, not a legal one."
In his seven years at corrections, Gonzalez has managed to avoid being sued for negligence. And if you believe his annual evaluation forms, he has done an "outstanding" job. I called him to discuss his colorful past and how it might affect his work. "I don't touch no inmate here, sir," he began defensively. "I don't have nothing to do with the practice of medicine."
But what about reviewing inmates' medical records?
"Just like at the insurance company when they review medical records, that's what I do," he said. Then, perhaps sensing that the conversation was headed toward the touchy subject of erroneously reviewed medical charts and misdiagnosed patients, he continued: "When I do that, I don't do that by myself. Usually a nurse is with me."
And that was about all he cared to offer on the subject. "I don't want to answer any more questions," he said.
I can understand why. The time for accountability has long passed. He is now a proud employee of the corrections and rehabilitation department, the home of second chances.