Double Dipping Doctor Still on Inspector General's Radar

A Better Government Association and Unit 5 Report

By Dick Johnson
|  Monday, May 7, 2012  |  Updated 6:37 PM CDT
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Dick Johnson reports on a Unit 5/Better Government Association story about a Cook County Hospital doctor who drew the attention of the Inspector General. This story first aired on May 6, 2012 at 10 p.m.

Dick Johnson reports on a Unit 5/Better Government Association story about a Cook County Hospital doctor who drew the attention of the Inspector General. This story first aired on May 6, 2012 at 10 p.m.

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The Cook County Inspector General urged disciplinary action against a top doctor and two others at Cook County Hospital, as a result of a Unit 5 and Better Government Association investigation into another doctor who received nearly $90,000.00 in pay -- even though he no longer worked at the hospital.  And now the hospital worker who first brought this story to Unit 5 and the BGA is claiming that the hospital has unfairly targeted him. 

Last November, Unit 5 and the B.G.A. revealed that a veteran orthopedic surgeon at Cook County Hospital, Dr. James Kapotas, took a leave of absence from the hospital in April of 2011, but stayed on the hospital payroll through August of that year, receiving approximately $1,200.00 a day in taxpayer money.  This was despite the fact that Dr. Kapotas had set up a new full-time private practice in Anderson, Ind.
 
At the time, Dr. Kapotas told Unit 5:  “I don’t go looking at my checking account.  I do direct deposit.  I don’t have a boat.  I don’t have three wives; I’m not some nephew of a county commissioner who enjoys doing nothing.  There’s no intent to defraud the county.”  

Hospital spokesman Marisa Kollias said at the time that the payments were a result of a “big clerical error.” She conceded, however, that Dr. Kapotas did not pay back the money until the week Unit 5 aired its story last fall.

 
It was only after the Unit 5/B.G.A. inquiry that hospital administrators launched an investigation.  
 
Now Cook County Inspector General Pat Blanchard has determined that Dr. Kapotas “continued to receive a full time County salary while actively employed elsewhere.”  The I.G.’s report says 
the payments were “improper” and that there was “negligence” on the part of three hospital employees, including Dr. Richard Keen, who was Dr. Kapotas’ supervisor at Cook County Hospital.  The I.G. report also recommends “disciplinary action” and “policy training” to keep this from happening again.
 
Meanwhile, the anonymous hospital source who first told Unit 5 and the B.G.A. about Dr. Kapotas’ extra paychecks has received a letter from Cook County Hospital, suspending him from his job there and banning him from the premises.  
 
Gerald Cotton spent most of his adult life as an orthopedic technician at Cook County Hospital.  He says he has pioneered new techniques, like a special bench designed for therapy patients.  Now he is revealing his identity as the source for the Unit 5/B.G.A. story on Dr. Kapotas, because he feels that the hospital is unfairly targeting him for what he did.  “I’m being paid $28.00 an hour to sit at home,” he says.  “They don’t want the corruption in the county exposed.”  Marisa Kollias confirms that Cotton was suspended in February, but will not say why.  
 
Cotton has now filed a grievance against the hospital for harassment.  In response, Kollias says she cannot comment directly on Cotton’s case, but, she says, “the health system recognizes retaliatory conduct is unlawful.”  Kollias also confirms that Cook County Hospital has not yet followed the recommendations by the Inspector General for disciplinary action or policy training. 
 
The hospital group referred to the following statement. 
 
"The Cook County Health and Hospitals System does not comment on personnel matters.
However, as a general matter, there are a number of reasons why an employee maybe on a paid administrative leave status. The Health System recognizes that retaliatory conduct is unlawful and as a matter of policy, the Health System does not condone or permit such regulation."

The Better Government Association promotes reform through investigative journalism, civic engagement and advocacy. We're a watchdog, shining a light on government and holding public officials accountable.

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