OIG whistleblower still trying to make noise more than 2 years later

Whistleblower claims he discovered KY nursing home violations he was told not to report

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The boxes piled up around the Christmas tree weren’t presents.

“I got all these boxes,” former Office of the Inspector General surveyor Tony Cisney said. “This is just part of the surveys I did.”

Cisney worked for Kentucky’s OIG as a surveyor for health facilities like nursing homes.

“I started finding problems that should be addressed that wasn’t addressed,” he said.

Along with the boxes of records, Cisney said he has rolls of photos of what he insists were several incidents of misconduct involving violations of law, in which he said he was being pressured by team leaders into engaging in the same unlawful conduct. He said he was pressured into omitting his documented deficiencies, or when he did note them, he contends deficiencies and facts had been omitted from the final report.

“She said, ‘Everything you find, we’re not gonna write up, things we know they’re gonna fix, because we don’t want to affect their 5-star ratings,’” Cisney said a manager told him. “I’m sorry. That’s not our job. Our job is to protect the residents.”

He wanted to write up things like unsecured biohazard material, leaving a patient in pain for more than 90 minutes with a blocked catheter, a patient with conflicting end-of-life directives in the file, and respiratory infections and insect bites caused by mold, lint and spiders in AC units right next to patients.

“She pulled me aside and said, ‘You need to stop and we need to get out of here,’” Cisney said.

He said with no other choice but to resign or participate in unlawful behavior, he declared himself a whistleblower and sued the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

"Mr. Cisney thought he saw problems at every nursing home inspection he went to," Cabinet for Health and Family Services attorney Jennifer Wolsing said. "However, unlike most new surveyors, Mr. Cisney was not able to listen, ask questions, and learn."

Wolsing pleaded the Cabinet’s side of the case at trial in October.

“Plaintiff Tony Cisney is not a whistleblower,” Wolsing told the jury. “No one at the Cabinet was overlooking anything at these nursing homes. In this case, the facts will show there was no ill or inappropriate conduct, and more importantly, no one retaliated against Cisney.”

Then, three days into the trial, Cisney said he felt pressured to settle the case. His attorneys feared a directed verdict by the judge against them, and Cisney said he was told the state could go after him for their trial expenses.

After the judge was advised Cisney would settle, the trial was stopped and jurors were dismissed. But Cisney refused to sign the settlement, saying it wasn’t what he agreed to. His attorneys withdrew.

Now, he wonders how many people are suffering in some way because of the way the system works.

“They tried to keep it in house, keep it quiet, and tell me to do my job the way they want me to do it,” Cisney said. “And even if I find things, even if I have solid proof, nothing’s going to be done about it.”

CHFS refused WAVE 3 News' request for an interview about the case. They’re asking the judge to enforce the settlement agreement. Two and a half years after trying to blow a whistle, Cisney may not have a whistle to blow.

Copyright 2019 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.