A nurse at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington was accused of pocketing two doses of flu vaccine for personal use. Hospital police investigated the alleged larceny, couldn’t prove the nurse did anything wrong, but her bosses fired her anyway.That same police investigation, however, revealed that a doctor- whose brother is former Senate Democratic Majority Leader George Jepsen- admitted taking two doses of flu vaccine for family use. She hasn’t been prosecuted.Huh?
Officer Linda Rockhill, a cop with the UConn Health Center’s Police Department, received an assignment in February 2004: Look into the disappearance of two doses of flu vaccine from the hospital the previous December, according to a transcript of Rockhill’s testimony at an arbitration proceeding.The alleged theft came a year before the acute flu vaccine shortage, meaning the offense boiled down to a $30 larceny, said Paul Murray, deputy Chief State’s Attorney for operations. In other words, a class C misdemeanor with a possible punishment of three months in jail, though a defendant with no criminal record would most likely get accelerated rehabilitation, Murray said. Still, Rockhill investigated. Certain employees at first pointed the finger at Susan O’Loughlin, a nurse in the Dowling South Building. She denied it. Then another medical assistant, Angel St. Pierre, told the police Dr. Rita Jepsen asked for the vaccine.Jepsen subsequently acknowledged to the police that she did, in fact, take the missing vaccines, according to Rockhill’s testimony at O’Loughlin’s arbitration. The doctor intended to use the doses for her brothers, Jepsen testified, one of whom is George Jepsen, former Democratic Senate Majority Leader and possible attorney general candidate. Dr. Jepsen could not be reached for comment. She has never before been disciplined for any infraction as a physician, according to the Department of Public Health’s web site.The former majority leader, now a lawyer at the Hartford-based firm Cowdery Ecker & Murphy, said he never asked his sister to take the vaccine. “And I certainly didn’t get one,” Jepsen said. Still, Dr. Jepsen did admit to taking two doses of flu vaccine for personal use. The siblings’ mother voiced concerns to Jepsen that her brothers didn’t receive flu shots that year, according her arbitration testimony. When Jepsen learned her brothers didn’t need the vaccine after all, she emptied them down the sink, Rockhill testified.But despite admitting to the offense that launched the police investigation in the first place, Jepsen wasn’t arrested. Neither was O’Loughlin, because police had only contradictory statements from witnesses and an inaccurate inventory.That’s when UCHC brass fired O’Loughlin anyway…for taking flu vaccine doses. That employment decision is now in arbitration, which is where the details of these events have emerged in sworn testimony. O’Loughlin’s attorney, Leon Rosenblatt of West Hartford, has argued in the arbitration that hospital administrators used the vaccine theft- which O’Loughlin denies- as a pretextual reason for firing his client, a way to get rid of an employee they didn’t like. UCHC spokeswoman Jane Shaskan declined to discuss these events, citing pending litigation. Shaskan did say Dr. Jepsen completed her geriatric fellowship in June and no longer has any status at the hospital. Ctnewsjunkie.com has submitted a Freedom of Information request for all documents surrounding the investigation.According to Rockhill’s arbitration testimony, her police superiors decided Dr. Jepsen’s transgression would be handled administratively, not criminally.However, investigators from the chief state’s attorney’s office did interview O’Loughlin several months ago about Jepsen’s admission, Rosenblatt said, though no action has been taken against the doctor.Murray described the case as an open investigation, though the dollar amount of the allegedly stolen goods is very low compared to other larcenies handled by the office, he said, adding that he didn’t know Dr. Jepsen was related to the former Senate majority leader. Attorney Jepsen said he has had no contact with any law enforcement personnel regarding the incident.