Criticism arises on Hutchinson appointee to dental board UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Criticism arises on Hutchinson appointee to dental board UPDATE


Criticism has arisen of Gov. Asa Hutchinson for not taking the Arkansas Dental Association's recommendation for a dental regulatory board appointment and appointing instead someone with a record of dental practice violations in the early 1990s. An account that is being widely circulated called the governor's action "unprecedented in modern times."

According to the memo (which I originally identified as being from the Dental Association, but whose origin is not clear or confirmed) the Association recommended Dr. Lauren Harmon of Jonesboro for an open seat on the Arkansas Board of Dental Examiners. Instead, Hutchinson named Dr. Richard L. Smith of North Little Rock, who practices with Monarch Dental. Said the memo:

Dr Smith had been found by the ASBDE to be in violation of the practice act on three occasions in the early 1990's, the first being overprescribing of narcotics. In light of the national focus on opioid abuse, the Governor's office promoted legislation in the 2017 to monitor the overprescribing of class II and III narcotics.

The other charges and penalties enforced against Dr Smith were for performing dentistry in a professionally incompetent manner and working without a valid license. In all three instances, Dr Smith's dental license was suspended. There have been no further actions by ASBDE against him, and his license to practice dentistry in Arkansas is active.

The memo faulted the governor for breaking with "tradition" in rejecting its suggestion for the board. It said its nominee had been "vetted at the district and state level." Smith is not a member of the Association, the memo noted.

The dental examiners meet next on Nov. 17.

I've sent questions to the governor's office about the memo and have left a message for a comment from Smith. An employee of the Dental Association took messages for its director, Billy Tarpley. He did not return calls or an e-mail message, but the employee said at one point that he'd "taken care of" questions about the statement, which had prompted several calls to the association.

The memo was received by Association members in the group’s email list, I have been told.

The record of  Smith's disciplinary issues is available on-line.

According to a January 1990 document, he admitted overprescribing a Schedule II narcotic. His license was suspended for 30 days, he was fined $1,000 and he was placed on 18 months probation.

An order in September 1991 said he'd performed root canals on three patients in a professionally incompetent manner. had administered nitrous oxide on one patient in an incompetent manner and allowed an unqualified employee to scale teeth. He was reprimanded, given a suspension of four months and fined.

An order in 1992 said Smith continued to offer dental services during the time he was on suspension. Smith contested this.

Finally, in October 1993, the State Board entered an order settling the pending issue by acknowledging two months of suspension that had been served and giving Smith an 18-month probation.

He's had no further appearances before the board for disciplinary reasons in the 24 years since and the board confirms he is licensed to practice.

UPDATE: The governor's office issued this statement:

“I value the views of the Arkansas State Dental Association, ut it’s my responsibility as Governor to appointment someone I see as the best person for these key positions. Dr. Richard Smith came highly recommended, and I chose him because he has an important perspective to offer to the Board of Dental Examiners.

“I am disappointed with the unnecessary attacks against Dr. Smith by the Dental Association for issues that were resolved over 20 years ago. As the Dental Association’s release makes clear, Dr. Smith is not a member of their association. When it comes to appointments, I’ve learned that that you cannot satisfy every interest group.

“I have no doubt Dr. Smith will represent the profession of dentistry well on the State Board of Dental Examiners.”

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