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Published: Saturday, 4/17/2004

Findlay psychologist suspended over sex with 2 women

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - The State Board of Psychology took emergency action this week to immediately suspend the license of a Findlay psychologist for repeatedly engaging in sexual activity with two mentally retarded women.

The board's executive director expressed concern that it took four months for the board to learn about the complaint, which was filed with city police on Jan. 2 against James H. Phillips, 71, of Vanlue, and that he had confessed in writing on Feb. 24.

Executive Director Ron Ross said the board was notified last week by the Hancock County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

The action by the state board marked the fourth time it has taken the peremptory step of issuing a summary suspension of a psychologist's license without waiting for a formal hearing.

A 2002 law gave it the power when the board perceives an immediate threat to the public.

The board mailed a notice to Dr. Phillips Thursday informing him that the license he's held nearly 30 years was suspended and giving him 30 days to fight permanent suspension.

"It's a complaint of this nature that makes the availability of summary suspension critical,'' Mr. Ross said.

Mr. Phillips, who holds a master's degree, did not return calls to his home and his office in Findlay.

He told police he planned to retire next month.

According to a police report, Detective Doug Akers told Dr. Phillips' attorney, Jeff Whitman, on Feb. 15 that "we recommended that his client consider pleading to a bill of information if he wanted to attract the least amount of attention.''

Mr. Whitman could not be reached for comment.

Detective Akers said yesterday he was unfamiliar with Mr. Phillips before the incident and there was no attempt to keep the case quiet.

"I didn't know there was a place I could report it to,'' he said, adding that he expected the local MRDD board to do it.

The case has been referred to Hancock County Prosecutor Robert Fry's office with a request that four counts of sexual battery, third-degree felonies, be filed in cases involving the 66-year-old and the 58-year-old mentally retarded females.

In his signed, handwritten statement given to police Feb. 24, Dr. Phillips wrote that the two women initiated the activity.

"In both situations, they're [sic] are regrettable incidence [sic], and I got caught up in a behavior losing my control,'' he wrote. Referring specifically to an incident with the 58-year-old woman, he wrote: "This again was a situation I regret and occurred when I should have had control.''

The 58-year-old woman told police she'd engaged in sexual acts with Dr. Phillips "a bunch of times.''

The activity came to police attention when her boyfriend, also a patient of Dr. Phillips, walked in on them and alerted the owner of the home where the woman was residing.

The 66-year-old resident told police that Dr. Phillips often took her to his office.

"It's been going on for a long time,'' she said.

The 2002 law mandates that county prosecutors who file charges of sexual battery against a psychologist must notify the board.

No charges, however, had been filed as of yesterday, and the law provides for no penalties against prosecutors who don't comply.

The board previously had taken disciplinary action against Dr. Phillips in 1982, suspending him for 45 days for billing for services not rendered and negligence.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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