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Power play behind removal of nursing board director

By Carrie Teegardin, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

When Jim Cleghorn was fired as executive director of the state Board of Nursing this month, the Secretary of State’s office first said the 10-year veteran director left while an ethics investigation was underway.

It was improper, Brad Raffensperger’s office said, for Cleghorn to serve as a state employee and executive director of the Georgia board while volunteering as president of the board of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, which paid for his travel to its meetings.

Nurses were stunned. Cleghorn was widely credited with improving the operations of the Georgia board. And an investigation of the matter had not even been completed.

Now, an AJC examination points to another possible reason for Cleghorn’s removal: the Secretary of State’s desire to maintain control of the state’s nurses and the fees the Board of Nursing can generate.

Along with firing Cleghorn, Raffensperger’s office is working on plans to bring back to state government a license verification process that nurses use when they move and seek a nursing license in another state.

In recent years, Georgia has relied on a widely-used national system called NURSYS, run by the National Council, for its verifications. Georgia moved to that system because its prior verification system was vulnerable to fraud, according to meeting minutes. The NURSYS system is a secure, one-stop shop that offers access to state licensing information used by healthcare providers and nurses across the nation, including those licensed under a multi-state nurse licensing compact.

The Secretary of State’s office told the AJC it is looking into pulling out of the verification section of NURSYS so it can handle verifications itself and collect fees.

“We’re bringing that back under our umbrella, so it’s all in our control,” said La Trenda Tyler-Jones, director of the Professional Licensing Division of the Secretary of State’s office.