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.