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Doctor disparaged

Inaccurate, anonymous flyer mailed throughout the Big Horn Basin

A Cody doctor was disparaged in an anonymous mass mailing last week, and evidence indicates the letter is primarily made up of falsehoods.

The flyer, mailed to a substantial number of residents across Park County and the Big Horn Basin, purports to have been written and sent by a dissatisfied patient of Dr. Jimmie Biles, an orthopaedic surgeon based out of Cody.

The flyer, sent by an individual identifying herself as “Rita,” tells readers that “(i)f this is your doctor beware,” claiming in part that Biles has been investigated for being drunk at work, following complaints from fellow physicians.

In an open letter to Big Horn Basin residents appearing as an advertisement in today’s Tribune, Biles flatly denied the allegations contained in the flyer.

“These allegations are simply not true; and they are designed to hurt me, my medical practice and my family,” Biles wrote.

The Wyoming Board of Medicine and West Park Hospital also denied the flyer’s claims.

In their own open letter, West Park officials said Biles has never been disciplined by the hospital since joining its staff in 1987.

“There is no truth to the allegations in the letter about Dr. Biles’ behavior or care provided at the hospital, nor has the Wyoming Board of Medicine received any pending complaints, taken any action of Dr. Biles, or provided information to anyone about physician complaints against Dr. Biles,” says the letter, signed by West

Park Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillan, Chief of Staff Kirk Bollinger and hospital Board Chairman Carol Roberts.

In the mass-mailed flyer, “Rita” claims she was told by the Wyoming Board of Medicine that several doctors complained about Biles being drunk at work and in the operating room.

However, Kevin Bohnenblust, the executive director of the Wyoming Board of Medicine, said those allegations were news to the board.

“We have no knowledge of this. None at all,” he said.

Bohnenblust also said even if an investigation had existed, he couldn’t imagine that anyone at the board would have told someone an investigation was underway, because that’s “completely against our policy.”

As per state statute, “We make no disclosures of pending investigations,” he said.

That policy, Bohnenblust said, not only makes the doctor innocent until proven guilty, but also protects the confidentiality of involved patients.

If a final disciplinary action is taken against a doctor, that information then becomes public.

There is no record of Biles having ever been disciplined by the board and as of Dec. 1, his medical license was current and in good standing.

Bohnenblust said there have been cases where individuals have misattributed information to the Wyoming Board of Medicine, but “nothing this blatant.”

“This is pretty bad,” he said.

The flyer also makes apparently inaccurate claims of Biles having multiple criminal charges pending.

The Park County Sheriff’s Office did arrest Biles on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol, a misdemeanor, on Oct. 17. He has pleaded not guilty.

The flyer-writer apparently copied and pasted the public booking information — including Biles’ booking photo — from the sheriff’s website but manipulated the text to claim Biles was facing three additional charges.

Responding to numerous phone calls about the flyer, Park County Sheriff Scott Steward issued a press release on Friday stating the sender had “altered that (booking) information to include more serious offenses that never occurred.”

There is no record of Biles having ever been charged with any other criminal wrongdoing in Park County outside of traffic violations.
Steward said the department is investigating the mailing’s origins.

In the flyer, “Rita” describes herself as someone who broke her ankle in Cody this summer. Rita accuses Biles of doing a “terrible job” of operating on the injury, and says she needed two additional surgeries “at home.”

Rita says “I am suing him (Biles),” but Circuit and District Court records show there are no suits currently pending against Biles in Park County.

In his open letter, Biles said he has faithfully served his Big Horn Basin patients over the past 23 years and brought them good results.

Rita does not state where she lives, and the flyer did not include a return address. The bulk mailing was sent from Fishers, Ind., through a commercial mailing company, Steward said. The sheriff said he had talked to the company about identifying who ordered the mass mailing.

To access arrest data and booking photos on the Park County Sheriff’s Office website, site visitors must first click through a disclaimer.

That notice reads in part: “Any person who uses information contained in or accessed through this website to threaten, intimidate, or harass any individual, including registrants or family members, or who otherwise misuses this information may be subject to criminal prosecution or civil liability under federal code and/or Wyoming State Statute.”

Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric said he was looking to see if any civil or criminal charges might be appropriate if and when the sender is identified.

But, “To misuse it (that public booking information), is there a corresponding criminal statute for that? I don’t think so,” Skoric said.

Libel, the publication of false and malicious information about an individual, is a civil — not criminal — offense.

In their open letter, West Park officials called the flyer “slanderous.”

“We don’t understand why anyone would stoop to these levels in an attempt to single-handedly destroy a talented physician’s reputation, but we personally know this physician, and know that this attack is unwarranted and undeserved,” the officials wrote.

Biles’ wife Rachel declined to comment in detail on the situation Monday, citing the continuing investigation into who sent the letter. However, she said the false accusations had been very hurtful to the family and that legal action would be pursued against the responsible party.

Bohnenblust, of the state medicine board, said if the letter was an attempt to distribute misinformation, it’s concerning. He noted Wyoming has a shortage of critical care doctors and can’t afford to lose them unnecessarily.

“If something undermines the public’s confidence in a physician, it really hurts us all,” Bohnenblust said.

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