Treatment clinic owner charged by state
The Washington Department of Health is pursuing administrative charges against the owner of a state-licensed drug and alcohol treatment clinic in Pierce County.
Two counts of "unprofessional conduct" accuse Clarence Farmer of faking treatment reports and falsifying urinalysis tests for two clients at A Change Counseling Center, the clinic Farmer owned and operated before he shut it down and moved to Spanaway last year.
It’s the first set of charges in wide-ranging state investigations sparked by KING 5's Sobriety for Sale series.
The six-page Statement of Charges says Farmer accepted a $1,500 payment from “Client A” in 2014. The charges say, “Other than the evaluation appointment and making payments at A Change's office, Client A never attended any treatment sessions.”
Client A was sentenced to alcohol treatment by the Pierce County Superior Court after a 2013 DUI conviction. He enrolled at A Change to complete that required treatment.
The Department of Health says Farmer falsely reported to the court that Client A was "in full compliance" and that he "...has completed all required sessions to complete his program."
“I can tell you right now, I haven’t took any pay or any money for doing anything wrong. I haven’t done anything wrong,” Farmer told KING 5 outside the new clinic that he opened in Spanaway, “A Fresh Beginning.”
The charges mark the first time that state regulators have taken action since KING 5 began its “Sobriety for Sale” reports in March 2016. The series exposed accusations of bribery and falsification of treatment reports by counselors at five state-licensed clinics, including Farmer’s.
“I never gave him freebie one. He paid me $1,500 for a $1,500 program,” Farmer said of Client A.
KING 5 has learned that Client A and Client B are individuals who were featured in KING 5’s reporting.
Client A is David Howard, a repeat DUI offender who hit and killed a woman while driving drunk in 1989.
Last March, Howard told KING 5 that he attended all of his classes at A Change. His ex-wife Kathy Bisbee said that he had not.
However, the Department of Health charging documents say Howard admitted he did not attend any counseling sessions when questioned by a health department investigator, who was following up on KING 5’s reports. Howard also denied that he signed treatment and counseling notes that were in files at A Change. The documents say Farmer “created” fictitious treatment records.
“That’s his signature on them. I’ll guarantee you that,” Farmer said during an interview outside his Spanaway clinic.
In a phone conversation with KING 5 last week, Howard admitted that he hadn’t been truthful when questioned by a reporter in 2016. But he decided to tell the truth after Department of Health investigator Rodney Johnson approached him.
“You’re just a reporter. He’s law enforcement,” Howard told KING 5. “I have great respect for law enforcement.”
Farmer accused KING 5 of unfair coverage of his clinic but admitted that he took action to improve his business.
"I got rid of almost all of my staff that I did have because I don’t trust them. I don’t know what's going on. I'm not saying they did something wrong. I just don't know," Farmer said.
Farmer also said he was perplexed by state regulators who have charged him on the one hand, while licensing him on the other.
“I have talked to the State of Washington. They certified me. They just certified me two months ago for another year,” Farmer said.
The Department of Social and Health Services confirms it recertified Farmer’s clinic. A spokesperson says that’s because the charges raised by the Department of Health have not yet been substantiated.
Farmer has 20 days to request a hearing to contest the charges. He said he would talk to his lawyer and decide his next step.
Follow Chris Ingalls on Twitter @CJIngalls
This story first aired on Jan. 12, 2017.