Manager in Minn.’s sex-offender treatment program censured

  • Article by: PAUL MCENROE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 19, 2012 - 8:45 PM

The director of the treatment program's health service was reprimanded by the state for unprofessional behavior.

A senior manager in Minnesota's sex-offender treatment program was reprimanded last summer for unprofessional behavior that put the program's health operations in disarray, according to a sternly worded discipline letter issued by the state Department of Human Services.

Scott G. Sutton, health services director for the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP), was also investigated for failing to follow nursing standards and creating a hostile work environment.

The letter did not detail Sutton's actions but said the episode, which has not been disclosed until now, had a "negative impact on the MSOP program,'' mainly because his decisions resulted in a lack of coordination in operating the program's health services.

As health director, Sutton oversees day-to-day care-giving for the program's 670 patients, who are under indefinite court commitment at secure facilities in Moose Lake and St. Peter.

Sutton, who declined to comment, has no medical or nursing expertise and does not provide medical treatment. He is responsible for recruiting and supervising staff and the daily administration of medical and nursing operations.

Before joining the program in late 2008, Sutton worked for four years as the manager of an emergency veterinary clinic, according to his résumé. In that capacity, he supervised 30 employees and was responsible for hiring, firing and performance evaluations. Before the veterinary job, he held two positions as a clinic manager at an "ambulatory care multi-specialty site" from 1999 to 2004, according to his resume. The names and locations of those clinics were redacted by agency officials in a document released to the Star Tribune.

The MSOP has been under separate scrutiny because of a lawsuit by patients who contend the program has a history of indefinite detention and inadequate care that violates their constitutional rights. In August, U.S. Magistrate Arthur Boylan ordered the state to create a task force to propose less-restrictive treatment options, which are likely to be presented to the Legislature early next year.

'Tough stuff'

Assistant Human Services Commissioner Anne Barry said Monday that Sutton is receiving on-the-job coaching in communication skills and team building.

"Sometimes a reprimand works," she said. "It's to put someone on notice that we expect something different. I'm concerned. We've gone through a lot of tough stuff with this manager."

Barry defended the decision to hire Sutton after he worked at a veterinary clinic. "He's a hospital administrator,'' she said. "He's not treating clients and he doesn't touch anybody," she said. "He's running a health care operation."

Sutton was warned in the letter that "continuation of this behavior will not be tolerated" and was ordered to participate in a job-coaching program to address shortcomings in communicating with subordinates and co-workers.

The agency provided a copy of Sutton's résumé to the Star Tribune, but redacted much of the content. Officials cited a section of the Minnesota Data Practices Act that allows employees in secure facilities to withhold information from the public for security reasons.

Much of Sutton's educational background was also redacted. The résumé states that Sutton received a master of science degree in health care administration and a bachelor of science degree, but the names and locations of the schools he attended were blacked out, as were the dates for his degrees.

Paul McEnroe • 612-673-1745

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