State’s highest paid employee performed ‘mailroom’ duties

July 13, 2011

California’s highest paid state employee took home $777,423 last year as a prison surgeon but did little more than shuffle papers. [Los Angeles Times]

In fact, Dr. Jeffrey Rohlfing has been mostly locked out of his job at High Desert State Prison in Susanville since July 2005 because medical supervisors don’t trust his medical skills.

Rohlfing has a history of mental illness and was fired once for alleged incompetence. When allowed to enter the prison facility, he has been relegated to reviewing paper medical histories, what doctors call “mailroom” duties.

For most of the last six years, he was on paid leave or fired or fighting his termination. His base pay of $235,740, typical for surgeons in California’s corrections system, accounted for about a third of his income last year.

The remainder was back pay for more than two years when he did no work for the state while appealing his termination.

“We want taxpayers to know we had no choice in this,” said Nancy Kincaid, spokeswoman for the court-appointed receiver in charge of California’s troubled inmate healthcare. “If you are ordered to bring somebody back to work, and you can’t trust them with patients, you have to find something for them to do.”

Rohlfing, 65, could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Joseph Polockow, said his assignment is an attempt by prison officials to get him to quit.

“If you stick a doctor in a room for eight hours a day with no patients, you’re making it very hard on him and trying to drive him away,” Polockow said

Rohlfing isn’t the only doctor in California’s cash-strapped prisons earning big money to shuffle paper. Dozens have been relegated to the chore in recent years, according to Kincaid, who said it’s the standard assignment given to physicians when questions arise about their clinical ability. Some eventually return to treating patients, some quit and others are ultimately fired, she added.


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13 Comments

  1. norweb says:

    I drove Kristi Rohlfing, reportedly this doctor’s wife back to Fresno from a Sacramento Rally a couple of years ago. She said she tried to report his actions to prison officials, and all she got was retaliation. I dropped her off at a house in Fresno where she said she was staying with some relatives. If this is the same doctor you should talk to his x-wife her stories would really curl your hair, and the prison officials knew it, and supported his actions.

    Robert Sillen the first Federal Receiver appointed by Judge Thelton E. Henderson in San Francisco told me, standing outside the Federal Court House, “at least half the prison doctors should be in prison”. Call Robert Sillen for more details. He tried to fire many of the prison docs. and got stopped by the prison officials.

    (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
  2. K Williams says:

    So glad this has finally been made public. Rohlfing is just one of many, many overpaid state do-nothings protected by the prison industry. If you were to ask any one of the 3 million family members of CA state prisoners, you would no doubt hear story after story of how nothing inside ever gets done correctly without outside intervention – and that, only after a lot of talking in circles while saying nothing, or outright lying has wasted valuable time – and sometimes never does get done right if the fuss isn’t loud and long enough. There is so much incompetancy within the prison system (cdcr) it is shocking. I would never have believed it until experiencing it myself. It is truly a horror story being lived out at the taxpayer’s expense…

    (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
  3. slomike says:

    Where was Arnold during this time? How did he miss this?

    (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
    • zaphod says:

      managing his complex adult relationships -cigar parties.

      (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down
    • oto says:

      Hey, where was the court system? Where was the union leadership? I remember looking at an annual California Budget one year, when it was two volumns long. The California Dept. of Corrections took up about three fourths of one volumn, and all the other departments of state government took up the remainder.

      Couple that reality with CalCoastNews’ article about the federal auditor at the National Guard who turned whistleblower about massive fraud at the agency, and you’ve got a real horror story.

      But what the heck does, “we can’t do anything about it,” mean? Everyone is “dissing” Michigan for being the first state to lessen the power of GOVERNMENT union employees, but there has been NO discussion about WHY the state’s legislators did what they did. There IS a difference between “civilian” union employees and government workers who, in addition to the protection they get from their unions, are also shielded by their 11th Amendment immunity from prosecution for their official acts or failures to act. It has been suggested that the way to remedy such failures is to qualify their immunity so they can be held liable like anyone else, or in this case, fired without backpay.

      (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  4. the86r says:

    Let me see if I can help people understand the nature of the article.
    prison staff = UNIONS
    bad prison staff = mail room duties
    Why? Well one simply just cannot fire them… prison staff have union rights. Let’s use a hypothetical scenario: a priest is caught smuggling cell phones into a California prison using bibles. He gets caught by the non corrupt prison guards while in the commission of the crime. The priest cannot be fired because he is in some California public workers union. One would deduce under the circumstances the priest can no longer be trusted to prevent contraband from entering the prison. Having been caught in the commission of a crime the priest is moved to a light duty position in the mailroom, with all the other degenerate scoundrels caught violating prison policy, awaiting disciplinary action. So we, as taxpayers, continue to pay this priest while the union decides if he loses his job or not even though he broke the law. I would like to add that prison staff who have had job related injuries enjoy time off with pay as a result of this program. You see, you cannot fire the bad ones so the injured ones get time off with pay that is IN ADDITION TO their already negotiated compensation package since the bad guys fill up all the light duty jobs… such as preventing contraband from entering the prison system via mail (anyone?).
    Don’t you wish you had job security like that?

    (10) 14 Total Votes - 12 up - 2 down
  5. NorCoMod says:

    How much more of this are we willing to take?

    My fear is that for every one of these useless drones that we hear about, there’s ten more that we don’t.

    (19) 19 Total Votes - 19 up - 0 down
  6. BeenThereDoneThat says:

    I learned way back in the 70’s when I was in school something that has stood the test of time. Be it you’re a Postal worker, Teacher or anything to do with a Gov. job (i.e. Civil Service worker) it takes an act of GOD to get rid of one vs the same stuff happening in the private sector. I am not just calling out the two mentioned, I’m calling out ALL OF THEM.

    We read it hear with drunk cops after hours in Templeton, Firefighters in fights etc. I have read about bad Postal workerrs in years past etc. Now I know those working for the Gov. are going to all give this a thumbs down. I am not saying all are bad but honestly you know that you see ALL THE RED TAPE that it takes to get rid of a Civil Service worker. Hence most in the position of firing them don’t because at the end of the day you probably will have no luck!!!

    (20) 26 Total Votes - 23 up - 3 down
  7. R.Hodin says:

    Shuffling paper.

    Isn’t there some sort of international competition for that among professional bureaucrats? This fellow could have world-class potential if he just gave it a little more effort and adopted a more positive attitude about it.

    Besides, isn’t that what mental health is all about?

    (9) 11 Total Votes - 10 up - 1 down

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