State investigators say they have new sexual misconduct allegations against a Twin Cities plastic surgeon from a woman who says the doctor molested her over several months and once after he had her medicated.
The woman is at least the fifth to complain to the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice about Dr. Christopher Kovanda, who continues to hold his license to practice in the state as an investigation continues.
The board announced the new inquiry Tuesday night.
Either through complaints with the state or in lawsuits, a total of at least six women have leveled sexual misconduct accusations since 2008 against the 55-year-old Kovanda, who was first licensed in Minnesota in 1999 and operates a clinic at Lakeside Center on Excelsior Boulevard in Uptown.
Kovanda's attorney, Nicole Brand, repeated Wednesday night The allegations against Dr. Kovanda are without merit."
A call to Kovanda's office was answered by a clinic employee, who said the doctor was not available for comment because "he is in with a patient now."
The latest allegations cover a four-month period until November 2019. Among the accusations, the woman said Kovanda disrobed her without asking during pre-operation examinations, touched his legs to hers, placed his hands on her hips for too long a time.
In her last visit before breast augmentation surgery, the woman alleged, she was given drugs before Kovanda came in the room. He then pressed his groin against hers while both were clothed.
"Despite already being administered medications and an IV pursuant to [Kovanda's] orders, [the patient] pushed [him] away," the board's said in Tuesday's redacted release.
The woman called Kovanda in January 2020 after her surgery, and he apologized, according to the release. It said he also offered the woman a refund because of how he touched her, indicating that "he did not want to be reported to the board."
He also told the woman, the release continued, "I don't think there is any explanation" for his conduct.
Jeff Montpetit, the attorney for a woman who reached a confidential settlement with Kovanda in a civil case, said Wednesday that "the fact that the board has yet to issue a decision in these very serious allegations is appalling.
"There is no way this gentleman should have a license to practice at this point. It just amazes me the board doesn't have the ability to temporarily suspend the license until the investigation is over."
Another attorney who has represented one of the women in a civil matter, Michael Hall III, added, "When you think about it, he is a danger to any woman who unknowingly goes into his clinic. These are people in our community. I find it really troubling and scary."
Ruth Martinez, who signed the latest release detailing the newest allegations, declined to answer questions Wednesday about the board's investigation, including why the agency doesn't exercise its option to temporarily suspend Kovanda's license.
However, she did address that point with the Star Tribune this summer: "We have to perceive an imminent risk of serious harm. … It isn't something that is used lightly."
A complaint filed in January 2011 led to Kovanda's acknowledgment of having sex with the patient and prompted a reprimand that required him for three years to, among other steps, have a female monitor present during all appointments with female patients and take a professional boundaries course.
While two other complaints alleging "inappropriate sexual conduct, including suggestive language and suggestive touching" were investigated by the board and drew no discipline, the facts in those cases were allowed to be considered true by the board as part of its decision to reprimand Kovanda based on the third woman's accusations.
The doctor previously practiced in the 50th & France retail district of Edina as Kovanda Plastic Surgery and before that as a partner at Midwest Plastic Surgery in Edina's Southdale Medical Building.
The medical board's previous announcement of an investigation of Kovanda in July led to the loss of his surgical privileges at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis and the 13 other locations run by Allina Health, said a spokeswoman for the health care provider. He had been practicing at Abbott since 2016.
Kovanda also had been in trouble with federal authorities over his bankruptcy filing in June 2020. An attorney on behalf of the U.S. Justice Department's Office of the U.S. Trustee accused the doctor of claiming financial hardship resulting from the pandemic and obtaining a $66,800 CARES Act loan from the government shortly before filing for bankruptcy and using the loan's proceeds to pay off personal debts and fraudulently concealing those payments from the court.
The doctor's attorney, Barbara May, said Thursday that the trustee "has dropped any allegations whatsoever against my client, and my client has been granted a full discharge in bankruptcy."