Treatment clinic owner fights state charges

KING 5 Investigator Chris Ingalls reports.

The owner of a former drug and alcohol treatment clinic is fighting back against state charges that he accepted a bribe from a client and that he falsified court paperwork.

The Washington Department of Health (DOH) filed a charge of “unprofessional conduct” against Clarence Farmer earlier this year.

On Monday, an administrative judge began hearing an appeal filed by Farmer’s lawyer, Joan Mell of Tacoma.

The DOH statement of charges says Farmer took at $1,500 payment from a client who had been arrested on a DUI charge.  The client, whom KING 5 has previously identified as David Howard from Lewis County, was sentenced to an alcohol treatment program.

DOH says after Howard paid his money, he never again returned to A Change Counseling.

Farmer owned the clinic for 10 years before shutting it down last year after it was profiled in KING 5’s “Sobriety for Sale” series of investigations.

Farmer is accused of telling Pierce County Superior Court that Howard was in compliance with his court ordered treatment and was attending counseling sessions.

“I’ve seen him there. I didn’t see him every time,” Farmer said of Howard’s supposed treatment sessions.

Farmer said his counselor trainees provided the face-to-face treatment, and he signed off on court documents believing that Howard was receiving his required treatment. 

However, Farmer testified that he is not sure his trainees were telling the truth.

“I fired them, because I wasn’t sure what was going on, and it was time to get rid of them,” Farmer said.

Howard has a previous conviction for killing a woman in a drunk driving crash.

On the witness stand Monday Farmer testified under oath that the $1,500 Howard paid was the fee to enroll in the treatment program. He said that to the best of his knowledge Howard was attending sessions run by other A Change counselors. Farmer said he signed compliance records based on his counselor’s assertions that Howard was attending. 

Howard told DOH investigator Rod Johnson that he did not attend any counseling sessions after paying Farmer the $1,500.

Farmer is also accused of submitting an insurance claim for a urinalysis test for another patient.  DOH says the claim was false because the A Change client never took a UA test.

Another day of testimony is planned for Tuesday.

There’s no word on when administrative judge John F. Kuntz will decide whether Farmer is guilty of unprofessional conduct and whether to revoke his counseling license.

© 2017 KING-TV


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