A Tallahassee doctor accused of sexual misconduct by five women patients has turned down a deal with the Florida Board of Medicine that would let him practice if he treats only men.
Family practitioner Edwardo Williams said that limitation – which was imposed as an emergency restriction last August – makes him unemployable.
“Because of the emergency restriction, I was basically unemployable," he said. "I am broke, I have no money to go anywhere else.”
He said he is innocent of the accusations and said he will take his case to a formal hearing so he can restore his good name and freedom to practice.
“We’ll be happy to litigate this, because he’s innocent,” said Williams’ attorney Tim Howard.
Williams, who had worked for Capital Regional Medical Group in the Southwood neighborhood of Tallahassee and at a neighborhood health center, was arrested in August on a charge of battery after one of the women reported his conduct to the Leon County Sheriff's Office .
Leon County Assistant State Attorney Jeremy Mutz said Monday that Williams pleaded no contest to the charge and received one year probation. He must get counseling on impulse control and do yard work at the jail as his community service, Mutz said.
Williams came to Friday’s Florida Board of Medicine hearing in Deerfield Beach with great hope of being able to resume full practice by the end of the summer. The Department of Health was willing to allow it as long as Williams always had a female licensee, such as a nurse, in the examining room when he was with women patients.
DOH prosecutors went along with the deal because they said some of the witnesses were not cooperating and might not testify if the case went to a formal hearing before an administrative law judge.
But Board of Medicine members unanimously rejected the proposed settlement, pointing out that a nurse who worked for the doctor might not be in a good position to chaperone.
“He should never be able to see female patients again,” said board member Nina DiPietro. “I’d be afraid he’d hit on the chaperone, too.”
According to the state’s professional misconduct charges, Williams made sexually suggestive comments to five women patients and touched some of them in a way that was not appropriate to a medical exam.
“I didn’t do any of those things,” Williams said at the Board of Medicine hearing. “I did not say those things to those patients. I did not touch those patients.”
He said the women made up the accusations in retaliation for his curbing the narcotics he prescribed.
But Dr. James Orr, board chairman, said “there were just too many” women accusing Williams of similar inappropriate conduct for that argument to be convincing.
The settlement that the board had rejected called for a reprimand, $27,500 fine, about $14,000 in costs, some courses and six months’ suspension, with credit for the time Williams had already been out of practice since he signed the papers in February.
After rejecting that deal, the board counter-offered Williams a settlement with the reprimand, fine, costs, and courses. But it lengthened the suspension to a year and added the permanent ban on treating female patients.
“We reject that,” attorney Howard said. “We’ll see you in court!”