Hacienda HealthCare Sexual Assault Case: What We Know - Rolling Stone
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Hacienda HealthCare Sexual Assault Case: What We Know

New investigation claims facility had a culture of sexual harassment — and it allegedly started at the top

This, photo shows Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix. The revelation that a Phoenix woman in a vegetative state recently gave birth has prompted Hacienda HealthCare CEO Bill Timmons to resign, putting a spotlight on the safety of long-term care settings for patients who are severely disabled or incapacitatedVegetative State Birth, Phoenix, USA - 04 Jan 2019

Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix. The revelation that a Phoenix woman in a vegetative state recently gave birth has prompted Hacienda HealthCare CEO Bill Timmons to resign, putting a spotlight on the safety of long-term care settings for patients who are severely disabled or incapacitated Vegetative State Birth

Ross D Franklin/AP/REX/Shutterst

New details have emerged about the rape, and subsequent pregnancy, of an incapacitated female patient at a long-term care facility in Phoenix, Arizona. On Wednesday, January 23rd, Nathan Sutherland, a 36-year-old nurse employed by Hacienda HealthCare, was charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of vulnerable adult abuse after his court-ordered DNA sample allegedly matched the victim’s baby. Sutherland appeared in court Wednesday but did not enter a plea, and is being held on a $500,000 bond.

The victim is a 29-year-old Native American woman who has been in a vegetative state since she was three years old — longer than the 14 years reported initially. According to the Phoenix Police Department’s probable cause report, Sutherland — who was hired in 2011 and fired following his arrest — was involved in the woman’s treatment and spent a lot of time with her. Investigators believe she was raped sometime between February and April, but shockingly, Hacienda Healthcare’s staff didn’t learn she was pregnant until she went into labor in December.

After the woman’s rape and unnoticed pregnancy made headlines earlier this month, Hacienda Healthcare’s CEO, Bill Timmons, “terminated his employment” — but a new investigation by the Arizona Republic suggests that he should have been removed much earlier. The news outlet reports that Timmons, who worked for Hacienda for 28 years, has been the subject of multiple sexual harassment complaints by employees spanning more than a decade of his employment.

Former human resources manager Rhonda Pigati told the Republic that the rape incident “made me sick, but sadly, I wasn’t surprised.”

“I wasn’t surprised because of the culture [Timmons] created,” said Pigati, who worked for Hacienda HealthCare from 2006 to 2008 and routinely heard complaints about Timmons behavior, including sexually inappropriate behavior and language, bullying, and yelling.  “Just about everyone is afraid of him. His management style was to impose fear. “He absolutely did yell at people. He pounded his fist on the table. His face would get beet-red.”

Louise Jay, who managed a thrift store for Hacienda’s non-profit foundation in 2006, filed a complaint about Timmons after their very first meeting. She told the Arizona Republic that Timmons, who was her boss, introduced himself at a fundraiser, pretended not to her reply and then leaned in close to say, “What was that? Cunnilingus? Fellatio?”

“I said, ‘You can’t speak to me that way,’” Jay recalled. “He said, ‘Why not?'”

Timmons got even closer, Jay said, backing her into a stack of chair, his face close to hers, and remarked, “You have a sexy mouth. What do you do with that mouth?” By the time Jay was able to maneuver her way out of the situation and leave the event, Timmons had allegedly expressed his desire to kiss her, and asked her about her sexual urges and masturbatory habits.

“It wasn’t that he (Timmons) was being sexy or flirty,” Jay said. “He was exhibiting his power and dominance over me. It was like he was telling me, ‘I get to know you in a sexual way.'”

Although she reported the incident to her supervisor immediately and an investigation was launched, Jay said the experience made her feel as if the burden of proof was on her.

“The formal process of the reporting was so intimidating,” Jay said. “It was almost worse than the few minutes I spent trying to fend off Bill Timmons.”

Tom Pomeroy, the President of Hacienda’s Board of Directors, released a statement to the Arizona Republic acknowledging that they had been “alerted” to accusations made by “several” employees.

“In the wake of Timmons’ resignation, people have raised the question of whether he should have been fired years ago,” Pomeroy’s statement said. “While in hindsight it may appear to be an easy call, it was not that simple in the moment. While Timmons attracted controversy and detractors, his years-long advocacy for Hacienda’s clients and their families helped fuel the growth of the company and increase its ability to change lives for the better. … Ultimately, the Board reprimanded Timmons and also enforced serious consequences for his conduct. Corrective action included counseling and more than 30 training sessions in a number of areas. Timmons was also forced to forego financial bonuses and raises.”

However, Timmons continued to manage four Hacienda  facilities and the non-profit foundation at a salary of $609,000 per year — even after two other female employees complained about his sexually inappropriate behavior.  When Jay heard about the rape and pregnancy of the Hacienda patient, she was horrified, even more so when she realized Timmons was still in charge of the facility.

“I can’t believe he’s still there, considering his behavior,” Jay said. “I kept telling them, ‘He will do it again — if not to me, to someone else.’ They chose to continue his service. They chose to keep him. They decided the benefits outweighed the risks.”

According to the Republic, Timmons did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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