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Former Jackson County Jail dentist says security issues made him quit

Posted: 6:16 PM, Nov 28, 2017
Updated: 2017-11-28 19:16:21-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — While county leaders met on Tuesday to plan the first meeting of Jackson County Executive Frank White's new jail task force, others connected to the jail say accountability needs to come from the top. 

"I didn't want to put my license on the line, and I'm not going to," Dr. Frank Varon told 41 Action News. 

He says he quit his job as a part-time dentist at the Jackson County Detention Center because of security issues and poor leadership. 

"These were medical hemostats, medical scissors, sharp instruments that were being left out," Varon claimed. 

On several occasions, Varon says he came to work to find medical instruments left out on the counter in various states of sterilization in a room where staff would perform procedures on jail inmates. 

41 Action News obtained two of Varon's complaints to his superiors, the Regional Medical Director and Regional Manager of Correct Care Solutions, the company that contracts medical staff with the jail. 

The complaints, made in July and September 2017, say he found instruments laying in pouches on the counter, and on one occasion, he reported for work to find the clinic door already open. He also claims loose instruments were laying on the counter, and nail clippers were left in the ultrasonic cleaner water to rust. 

In an email Varon provided to 41 Action News, his superiors say Regional Manager Kim Gerdes, would be investigating. The email goes on to acknowledge Varon's complaint that the clinic door was left open one Saturday and that concerns are "directly related to the lack of custody staffing." 

"My worry is that if an inmate had gotten a hold of some of those instruments while I was on duty, I would be culpable," Varon said. 

A spokesperson for Correct Care Solutions said the instruments are put in a locked cabinet every day, and that an inmate wouldn't have access to the clinic because the doors are locked. He told 41 Action News that an inmate also wouldn't be in the clinic room without someone else there. 

Varon says his concerns speak to the culture at the jail, which is coming under fire yet again for an inmate's brutal eight-minute assault against a corrections officer on Thanksgiving. 

The officer was in critical condition, but he is now stable and breathing on his own. 

Multiple assessments found that the jail is understaffed, employees are underpaid, and the facility conditions are subpar, among other issues. 

While White, who oversees the jail, is calling for another task force, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said she will not accept a position on the committee and demanded immediate action instead.

Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police President Brad Lemon agrees with Baker's statement. 

"Something has to be done, and it makes no sense that we're empowering another group task force filled with people that do not have expertise in the law enforcement field or the detention field," Lemon said in a fired-up statement to news outlets. 

Lemon says his members' lives are at stake every time they have to go inside the jail. 

"We just had somebody almost beat to death for almost eight minutes, and without the ability to protect themselves. We could probably get somebody from headquarters faster to save one our members than it looks like Jackson County can do to take care of their own," Lemon said. 

Lemon suggested a change of leadership. 

"Every county around us, the sheriff handles detention, and you don't hear a word about it. But in our county, all we've heard now is how bad it is," Lemon said. 

The Jackson County legislature met Tuesday morning and questioned White about why the jail continues to have problems.