Havner questions county officials about HIPPA procedures

A local resident and veteran questioned officials and accused them of procedural wrongdoing at the Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday.

Robert Havner, citing the recent report about Chickasaw County regarding an audit done by the State Auditor’s Office, claimed that the county officials had jeopardized confidential veterans files and violated state law as it applies to the Health Insurance Portability Act.

"I simply brought the complaint to you, it's up to you to do what you want with it," Havner told the supervisors. "I believe there are changes that need to be made and questions that need to be answered."

"The VA board needs to see that first," said Chickasaw County Attorney Jennifer Schwickerath. "The board of supervisors can't take any action until after the VA looks at it."

"The supervisors are still their boss," Havner replied. "This is a major concern with HIPPA, it's a breach of patient confidentiality."

The reaudit, performed at the request of a county official, found in January 2017, the Veterans Affairs Director resigned his position. In April 2017, the county paid a former board of supervisor -- Rick Holthaus -- $202 for 15 hours worked while acting as the Veterans Affairs Director. However, Holthaus had not been officially hired for this position, so the county made the payment through accounts payable rather than payroll, and the appropriate federal and state taxes were not withheld.

In addition, Holthaus had access to confidential and other county information for a period of time that only someone officially hired for the position should have had access to, according to the report.

"Mr. Wayne Moetsch has served many terms as a Chickasaw County VA Commissioner," Havner said, reading from a written statement that he had presented to the supervisors. "He should have known to protect confidential veteran medical records and should have known HIPAA requirements."

Havner said that "it has been suggested by veterans that Mr. Moetsch be removed from the current VA Commission and replaced with a new veteran, through the end of Mr. Moetsch's term, and he not be reappointed."

Havner said that in March, he had talked to the county attorney's office and the county sheriff about the possible HIPPA infractions, and the county attorney instructed that the keys be retrieved at that time.

Holthaus, who served as a supervisor for eight years, responded to Havner's accusations.

"I can assure you I didn't get into any confidential records," Holthaus said. "The confidential records were in a filing cabinet under lock and key, and I never had the key."

Havner wondered if Holthaus had access to online records.

"I never had a key, I never had a password, I never had access to private records of anyone," Holthaus said. "As far as I'm concerned, your complaint is invalid. This is not an issue."

"Who gave the key out?" asked supervisor Jacob Hackman.

"I only had a key to the office, I never had a key to the building, I never had any access to any records," replied Holthaus.

Holthaus then explained that he had been called and asked to apply for the VA position, and had been told that he was more qualified for the position than anyone who had applied. After some time, he reluctantly agreed, but after a couple of days on the job, he changed his mind and submitted his resignation.

"I knew that there were some people who would have some problems with me in that position," he said. "I'm not a veteran, I'm a former supervisor. After dealing with Mr. Havner on the job, I realized I didn't want to work with him, and I didn't want to work with what I consider to be a dysfunctional board of supervisors."

Holthaus actually resigned before he was officially hired, which is why he had to be paid for his work through accounts payable.


For more of this article, see Tuesday's Tribune or Thursday's Reporter.

New Hampton Tribune

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