I have read a lot of garbage in Asheboro’s Courier Tribune over the last nearly 20 years. But a “guest opinion” column written by Robert Morrison, the “colorful” (as dubbed by all the “right people”) former CEO of Randolph Hospital, and published on the day after Thanksgiving, pretty much sits at the top of the stinking heap.
I am posting this response on Facebook, and tagging Judge Rob Wilkins, because Morrison’s “opinion” (containing a not-so-veiled, uber-despicable swipe at Rob) deserves a forceful response. But it won’t get one at that sorry excuse for a newspaper (because free speech is only a right for a "right person" like Bob Morrison). So it will get one here.
As a life-long “invisible” citizen/taxpayer of Asheboro/Randolph County – and longtime critic of the Courier’s peculiar brand of “journalism”, my letters-to-the-Editor are NEVER published, and I have long been banned from commenting on their stories online. You see, the story of what happened to me in Asheboro . . . years ago, as a home-grown Board-certified Pediatrician recruited home to public service . . . on Bob Morrison’s watch and under his direction (a story our newspaper’s Editor/Publisher know about but have REFUSED to fully/truthfully tell), is EMBARRASSING to many of Asheboro’s powers-that-be. These “leaders” of a now-dying mill town tightly circled the wagons around Bob Morrison when he was wrong – when he lied – when he cheated – when he stole. It's been a way-of-life in Asheboro for a very long time - when it comes to the rules of any game, some people are just more "equal" than others. And the City Fathers can't figure out why the town is "dying" now - why the Lord God is not answering their prayers for community grace and redemption.
Ergo, I cannot now let these “editorials” (in which Bob basks in his own tolerance and moral superiority – lecturing the rest of us on “integrity” and “equality”) pass in silence – particularly not when he attacks a friend.
And Judge Rob Wilkins is my friend. He is my friend because he is a man of conviction and character who, over the last couple of years (we’ve only known each other that long), has managed (simply by demonstrating, on a daily basis, the strength of that conviction and character) to restore a very small portion of the faith I long-ago lost in our local legal system . . . a system that is just as broken and corrupt as my own once-noble profession – a profession brought low by the likes of Bob Morrison – Asheboro’s own $700,000 man.
Bob’s rambling editorial is not worth a word-for-word reprint (if this is what passes for intellectualism in Asheboro, the town is truly doomed), but I am going to hit the highlights – and I must begin by stating why Bob Morrison is the LAST person in Asheboro who should be lecturing any of the rest of us on integrity – or the pitfalls/evils of subterfuge, and deception.
Then, we will get to what Bob said about the Judge.
Bob starts off by talking about being thankful for this nation and the opportunities it provides. But then he states his “pride” in our nation is in need of repair (he actually sounds a lot like Michelle Obama). I would remind Bob that pride is one of the seven deadly sins, and it generally comes before a big fall.
I know. I was very proud of the Pediatric practice I built in Asheboro – after taking advantage of the opportunity my government provided – to repay my medical school loans for service (to the “under-served” in a “non-profit” setting). The goal of the National Health Service Corps was for me to come home and stay home (even if I wound up transitioning into private practice when my obligation was done). And, after YEARS of hard work/paying my dues, that's what I wanted to do - I wanted to live and work amongst my family and friends. As a child, I'd had a HORRIBLE surgical outcome at Randolph, and I didn't want that to happen to anyone else.
(If anyone is wondering, when I was five years old. an Asheoro/Randolph Hospital Family Practitioner MUTILATED my throat and soft palate when he took my tonsils out - to the point that my soft palate had to be reconstructed when I was in college. Years later, while employed by the hospital, I gave Randolph another chance - this time with sinus surgery - only to have a local ENT bore a hole into my face/skull that, according to experts at NC Baptist Hospital, was placed in the WRONG location. This also had to be surgically corrected - at least, inasmuch as it could be. For the record, my family and I did not sue the physicians/hospital in either instance - for all that suing Randolph Hospital for what they would later do to me/my practice garnered me the local reputation of being a litigious witch - as opposed to a dedicated/deeply hurt physician done horribly wrong - insult piled upon injury.)
I was recruited home to “clean up” Pediatrics. But, over time, my relationship with management deteriorated because Bob Morrison did not want to do what was necessary to back his Pediatricians up in his small town hospital’s stupid turf wars. In Asheboro, as is the case with many (if not most) small-town hospitals in North Carolina, the doctors who take care of children at their sickest are at the absolute BOTTOM of the medico-political totem pole - we're there to be the OB's and surgeon's and ED docs' whipping-boys-and-girls . . . treated little better than the lowliest medical student. We're damned-well supposed to know/stay in our place - or else. We can be sued for up to 18 years after we see/treat a child, but we're supposed to swallow all the short-sighted cost-cutting measures (like putting sick children on the same wards as newborn infants . . . or closing Pediatric wards altogether . . . or kicking newborns out of the hospital in 24 hours) . . . and staff clinic hours/endure call-loads that the Internal Medicine and Family Practitioners routinely SNEER at (their "quality of life" being so much more important than ours) . . . while being paid NOTHING for our extra time. We're heroes for a day when we clean up the messes others make - then we go right back to being nobodies/pawns. If we dare say "boo!" to the layer-upon-layers of overpaid suit and lawyers (people with a fraction of our education/training) dictating the conditions under which we work, we're thrown out with the trash - so they can bring in the next gullible newbie to abuse.
And make no mistake, Bob Morrison was at the front of all of these despicable trends in which community hospitals/their executives "owned" Pediatricians and could bully them into submission. His top priorities, you see, were not about patient care. They were not about public service. Bob's priorities were all about appearances and money - to feed his bonuses and his retirement parachute. My patients were cattle to the "volume guy" - assets to be driven in and out of the hospital/office as much as possible. And because his priorities did not mesh with those of the well-meaning Federal program that recruited me home, Bob Morrison ultimately found it cumbersome to play by the government’s rules. So Bob/his lawyers found a way to cheat . . . while the government I served ignored its own mandates and looked the other way – as the government often does. The government was supposed to "help" the community by recruiting and retaining Pediatricians to Asheboro/Randolph County. It was supposed to help me get a leg up on getting a practice established. Alas, thanks to Bob Morrison, and no checks or balances, I have lived the long-ago warning of Ronald Reagan: “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
On the flip side, the government TOTALLY worked for Bob Morrison. He has made a very good living for himself under the cover of public service . . . lying, bullying, scheming and cheating other people out of the fruits of their hard work – and their dreams. His faith is in government is based in the subterfuge and deception he got away with when he should have been fired, or gone to jail. That, and the great big phat pile of money he's wallowing in now - courtesy of an uninformed populace (thank you, Courier Tribune).
Like most good Democrats (no offense intended to my friends who are truly good Democrats – as opposed to pompous impostors – like Bob – who spent the majority of his professional life living like the worst stereotypical-good-ole-boy-fat-cat Republican . . . from the ridiculously-inflated salary he collected while employed by small-town “non-profit” hospital . . . to the way he used clueless mill-town leaders to shield himself from accountability for his lies and subterfuge . . . to the way he has selectively rallied his neighbors to pave Viewmont Road only just past his cul-de-sac), Bob puts all of his faith in the government – a government guided by a supposedly benevolent majority. His premise (as best I can tell) is that in democratic societies, the majority tends to rally towards noble goals in times of great crisis – and is capable of great things.
Bob moves on. But along came Hitler. The majority is not always benevolent. Might is not always right. Government is not always good. (Another DUH). Groups of people are made scapegoats – enemies of the state. Opposition to what the majority wants must be ridiculed, humiliated, marginalized and destroyed (insert obligatory Star Trek Borg reference: “Resistance is futile”).
Bob says this is America today. And I agree.
But my agreement comes from the vantage point of someone who was used, abused, betrayed and abandoned by her government (in large part to cover/save Bob’s lying tail) . . . someone who has spoken a lot of truth to power (Asheboro’s powers-that-be didn’t listen) . . . someone who (for the sin of telling that truth) has been ridiculed/humiliated/marginalized/but-not-quite-destroyed . . . someone who has real reason/just cause to never, ever trust/believe the government again.
Bob spends quite a bit of time waxing poetic about pride and the public trust – from the space program (he had to have a Kennedy reference) to the building of the Interstate Highway system and the Hoover Dam – the public had to trust the government for these things to be successful.
We've come to the paragraph in Bob’s op-ed that I’m going to quote: “Some steps towards building national pride would be to replace deception, partial truth, and manipulation of government processes that are the current norm with integrity, openness and equal application of laws and standards to all of us. Integrity requires much more than not telling lies. It requires intentionally communicating the whole truth; a task that is difficult when the subjects are laden with emotion. Integrity also requires listening to learn what we do not know and to understand the perspectives of others. In our discussions of social and political issues, we must hold ourselves to those standards. Only then will be able to hold our leaders to them too.”
I would suggest that we START with the author of this editorial (who could have used an editor). Bob made his bones in Asheboro doing all of the things he tells the rest of us to eschew. Years ago, in his role as CEO of “non-profit” Randolph Hospital, noble Bob Morrison, “public servant”/community “leader”, put a home-grown Pediatrician in the position of choosing between her job/every-dream-she-ever-had and a dying newborn baby’s life. If that doctor had done what Bob Morrison and Steven Eblin (Bob’s left hand man – now CEO) would have had her do . . . and caved into their threats (to “shut up” or else about problems at in Pediatric care/physician behavior at Randolph Hospital), she would have hung up on a terrified nurse in the middle of that night, rolled over, gone back to sleep and let a newborn baby die.
Bob rewarded that doctor’s very real courage and integrity by firing her two weeks later. But he didn’t just fire her. He SPAT on the spirit and intent of the government program that brought her home – and manipulated her contract in a fashion that served to destroy her practice – so his “non-profit” hospital could quickly/quietly absorb it – and keep “the business” as its own. Bob lied to everyone about what he was doing – and why. The doctor’s patients were his “property” – no matter what the agreement the hospital had made with the government said.
When the doctor fought back (nobody talks back in Asheboro) – and demanded accountability, light and air, Bob sued that doctor for telling the truth to the government she served. He thought she would run. She didn’t. Of course, the government still did nothing to police its own program, and the doctor had to fight her battle alone.
But the point is, what Bob and his flunkies did was wrong, and she fought back. And there are doctors in private practice in Asheboro today who should be on their knees thanking her that she did.
When Bob Morrison had to tuck tail and run from his lawsuit (it’s called a SLAPP suit – Google it) . . . because the doctor had been telling the truth all along . . . Bob Morrison and Steven Eblin and Randolph Hospital’s lawyers swindled the Pediatrician out of a fair and equitable settlement . . . a settlement that accurately reflected the damage done to her life and career . . . a settlement that might have brought her home/restored her practice and her dream. They did it by boldly lying about the confidentiality of public records in discovery responses – and withholding them from the Court. Now, most ordinary folk would call that subterfuge and deception. But in Bob’s mind, the end (saving the hospital money) justifying the means (cheating the doctor – defrauding the taxpayer – and betraying the public trust). And Bob Morrison’s oh-so-noble friends – sitting on boards and in local government let him get away with it (to this day, many of them still pretend that they were not involved or didn’t know what was going on). Ultimately, so did the Court - in what was clearly a fixed game - elevating a local prosecutor's "discretion" over the spirit and intent of Federal programs - and the law. I BEGGED Garland Yates to refer the case out for the proper investigation it never got. But the intent and spirit of the law did not matter – it was all buried by local law enforcement - and our District Attorney’s “discretion” . . . lifting Bob Morrison above the law’s grasp.
That same winking and nodding . . . that same “discretion” . . . kept the DA’s brother from being arrested and prosecuted for stealing political signs last year. Lady Justice has had her blindfold off and her skirts up in Asheboro for a long time. So it’s kinda hard to take Bob’s lectures now on everyone being equal under the law.
Moving on, as he moved closer to retirement, Bob’s salary, as CEO of a small-town hospital, jumped into the stratosphere. His salary alone could have paid the salaries of three full-time physicians – or a number of nurses/PA’s (please tell me, in terms of relative value to the community, was Bob going to get out of bed and see your sick child/parent/sibling/loved one in the middle of the night?).
Now Bob writes drivel for the Courier Tribune – producing tripe that reads like Bob Dylan on a really bad acid trip.
Bob Morrison does not now get to lecture me on integrity – or the importance of trusting the government to do the right thing now. He most assuredly does not get to do what he did next in the almost indecipherable/barely-readable mish-mash the Courier calls an “editorial”:
Bob Morrison compared Judge Rob Wilkins (in addition to being a practiced liar, Bob is also a coward, so he didn’t actually use Rob’s name) to Catholic priests who molested children, and an FBI director who spied on civil rights leaders.
What merited this ridiculous leap of hyperbole, you ask?
Why, Judge Rob Wilkins had the audacity to travel to Washington D.C. during the government shutdown, and, while he was there, impulsively help remove barricades from in front of a national monument honoring our WWII veterans - barricades that blocked the path of said veterans to the shrine. Rob (a Coast Guard veteran himself) had the personal courage of conviction to stand up for what he knew to be right when our government was wrong and broken and not serving the very citizens who fought and bled on fields of battle – citizens who-by-their-sacrifices purchased Bob Morrison’s very right to cast aspersions on his political enemies (and suggest that they be arrested/disciplined) . . .
. . . because Bob Morrison is Ray Criscoe’s personal political tool in Randolph County – an untouchable, uber-liberal mouthpiece for a frustrated newspaper editor who lives/works in a deeply-red county, and who doesn’t dare say what he wants to say himself – lest he find himself pounding the pavement for another job . . . because even bad newspapers must have standards-of-conduct, and lines you don’t cross.
For Bob's enlightenment, I'm going to point out that the difference between Rob Wilkins' act of civil disobedience in Washington and that of the "Moral Monday" demonstrators in Raleigh (meriting arrest), is that Rob did NOTHING to disrupt the process of government because the government was SHUT DOWN. It wasn't working (I would argue that it doesn't work when it's up and running). He wasn't standing at government's door with his hand out. He was letting people who had already paid their fair share IN.
I believe that most of the citizens of Randolph County believe in the things that Rob Wilkins believes in. They understand that our free speech has NEVER been “free”. And they believe that’s Rob’s small, relatively tame act of civil disobedience was the right thing to do – and the right time to do it.
I want to reiterate again that Bob Morrison compared Judge Rob Wilkins to a pedophile – ironically, in an “editorial” in which he bemoaned vilifying/attacking others for political gain. It fits the "progressive" political MO and leaves me wondering WHO is really behind Morrison’s attack on Rob Wilkins?
In his “editorial”, Bob seems to completely miss the point that this nation was founded by people who took issue with a tyrannical/out-of-control/tax-and-spend government . . . a government that, in my humble opinion, is a whole lot like the Federal government we have now . . . the Democratically-controlled, horribly-inefficient, criminally-incompetent, uber-corrupt, money-sucking, behemoth-pitting-citizen-against-citizen that Robert Morrison would have us blindly support without anyone whimpering a single weak objection. We’re all supposed to hold hands and sing Kumbaya when we see things that are wrong or stupid. If something doesn’t work or do what it’s supposed to do, we are to keep our mouths shut and go along to get along (as Bob would have had me do when a Cone-owned neonatologist-wannabe - marketed by Bob's team as having experience/skills he did not possess - nearly killed a critically-ill newborn baby with his arrogance and ignorance). We’re all supposed to be complacent zombies sucking at the teat of the Daddy-state. And if we're not sucking, we're supposed to keep shoveling our hard-earned money into a system that does not, in fact, treat all of us fairly or equally - or reward our individual hard work/sacrifice.
For all of his blather about American pride and trust, Bob seems to be advocating a distinctly un-American society without checks, balances, conscientious/peaceful dissent, personal responsibility or individual moral compasses . . . moral compasses like those of Rob Wilkins . . .
. . . moral compasses like mine.
I’m going to close this rebuttal with the observation that Bob Morrison supported Obamacare (the ACA). According to Bob, it was going to be the answer to all of our problems in healthcare. We are to believe the same IRS that would not hold Bob accountable for the lying and subterfuge that drove a young Pediatrician out-of-Asheboro for doing the right thing by a patient, is going to police medicine from top to bottom. Never mind that Bob’s Federal government can’t even get a website to work properly – or guarantee the security of a citizen’s most private information when they sign up. As for our leaders lying, unless we were already paying-out-the-yang for our health insurance – we can’t keep it – any more than we can keep our doctors. In North Carolina alone, billions of dollars have been wasted in various Medicaid scams – but Bob wants to expand it . . . we’re supposed to pile millions more patients on fewer and fewer providers and expect fraud/abuse not to skyrocket? I will note that Obamacare only threw more money at the National Health Services Corps (the program I served while in Asheboro), whose mission and intent was made a mockery of by the lying and cheating of Bob Morrison/Steve Eblin. Nothing about the oversight of the NHSC (particularly as it pertained to protecting provider participants – all increasingly in shortage) was reformed or fixed. Bob no doubt supported the ACA because it would drive clinicians into total subservience to lawyers and MBA’s (or out of medicine completely), and rain down perpetual government money on a small mill-town community hospital that is struggling . . . laying off employees because the hospital is still paying (dearly) for Bob’s ridiculous salary and golden parachute.
Bob bled this town/Randolph Hospital dry . . . all the way to a phat retirement. And I submit that his end did not justify the means. So once again, his lectures, dripping in political partisanship and wrapped in the Trojan Horse of what a Teflon-coated liar thinks is best, fall flat.
This isn’t about politics – or what party you’re in. This is about simple right and wrong. If you actually believe that he ever had an original thought (and that Steve Eblin wasn't the power behind the throne all along) Bob Morrison has been wrong – about a lot of things – for a very long time. And because he's been wrong, he and those like him brought Asheboro down. We're still trying to get back up.
But Bob is set and he can fiddle.
Here’s my suggestion: I am posting this on Facebook. If anyone reading this truly is Rob Wilkin’s friend – might I suggest that you (1) LIKE this post, (2) SHARE this post, and (3) write the Courier. Tell them to STOP printing this garbage. Tell them that this time they’ve gone too far. Demand that they END Bob Morrison’s tenure as a “guest columnist”. Tell Mr. “Colorful” to pack his poison-laced crayons and leave the otherwise empty stage he will apparently say anything to stay on. Tell them that we-the-People of Randolph County want a newspaper that reports the news . . . that actually investigates . . . that treats people and stories fairly/equally . . . that does not ban anyone from commenting online . . . that truly offers/respects all points of view . . . that doesn’t hide the town’s ugly because it’s ugly . . . and that does not suppress criticism of said ugly. Speak to their bottom line. Tell our warped version of “the fourth estate” that subscriptions will be quickly cancelled if the editor/publisher do not soon change the way they practice their craft. Remind them that they are supposed to speak for the people – not the powerful . . . that their pens and keyboards are supposed to stand for right, not might.
And finally, put yourself in my shoes – in my family’s shoes. Put yourselves in the shoes of the parents of the baby whose life I defied Bob Morrison and Steven Eblin to save. That baby survived her first horrifying night and very difficult beginnings, and has grown into a lovely young woman – whose baptism I was honored to recently attend at First Baptist Church. So I’m also asking you to write Randolph Hospital. Tell Steve Eblin that what he and Bob Morrison did all those years ago was WRONG. Tell them it’s time to finally admit what most everyone knows, and make amends.
If you’re really disturbed by my story, write legislators and TV stations, and ask them,”What the hell?!?”. Can this really be America?
Judge Rob Wilkins – and his wife Cindy - became my friends because they did not judge me based on Courthouse snickerings – courtesy of people with ulterior motives, grudges and personal agendas (like keeping a very ugly story – and their roles in it - buried). Rob took the time to get to know me. He spoke to mutual friends. He read my blog – not just the stuff I wrote (without him asking) supporting his re-election. He listened. Even though, because of his position, he couldn’t do a thing to help me, it was clear he CARED about how horribly his system had let me down. He felt my disappointment and pain and betrayal on a personal level. I sincerely believe that if someone like Rob had been sitting in other chairs back in the day, my case – and life – might have had a different outcome. Rob Wilkins is his own man. He is a good man. He cares about truth. He cares about justice. It’s not just lip service. In other words, Rob embodies everything a decent human being – and citizen – and judge – should be. And mealy-mouthed, two-faced, double-talking, back-stabbing, dream-killing Bob Morrison isn’t fit to wash his motorcycle.
Nothing is going to change in this town/county until people-of-conscience stop being afraid of their shadows and stand together and speak out about the things and people that put this town on the map as one of the fastest-dying-towns in America.
And again, civic death and decay . . . to the point that we're soon going to be a regional trash dump . . . is Bob “Mr. Colorful” Morrison’s real legacy to Asheboro. He's one of the people that put us in the hole. It’s not all that progressive. And, as an American, it’s nothing to be proud of.