Published: September 1, 2016 – 07:53 PM
The appointment of Michael Gonidakis to the State Medical Board raised concerns the moment John Kasich appointed him four years ago. Gonidakis is the president of Ohio Right to Life, and the worry was the governor crossed a threshold with the selection, the board now vulnerable to partisan afflictions. The same would be true if a Democratic governor tapped the director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.
Frank LaRose of Copley Township could see the potential for harm, and thus he opposed the nomination, the only Republican in the state Senate to do so. Now Ohioans have an example of just what LaRose and others had in mind. Gonidakis recently collided with a conflict of interest.
In early August, the Right to Life chapter in Dayton filed a complaint against three doctors at a local abortion clinic. The state Department of Health previously had lodged its own complaint. The decision-making of the physicians warrants evaluation. A woman who consented appeared for the procedure the next day high on drugs. The doctors went ahead with the abortion, then sent her to the hospital to treat an overdose.
Ohio Right to Life issued a concurrent press release. Gonidakis forwarded the release to the executive director of ProgressOhio, adding the note: “Will you finally repudiate the industry for which you so proudly support? So much for ‘women’s health.’ So sad.”
The problem is obvious enough. Gonidakis invited the impression that he already had decided the matter, one pending before the medical board. The advocate lost sight of the impartiality required of a board that establishes the credentials to practice medicine, issues licenses and oversees the performance of the profession.On Aug. 19, 11 groups representing doctors, consumers and women sent a letter to the medical board asking for the removal of Gonidakis, who currently serves as the board president. To be sure, some of the groups include advocates who may be eager to see an adversary toppled. Yet the strength of the letter stems from what Gonidakis did, needling an opponent as expected in one realm yet far out of line in the other.
Gonidakis now is in the final year of his term. He eventually arrived at the proper position choosing to recuse himself from the case if it lands directly before the medical board. He would do well to leave the board because he did not belong there in the first place.
The value in this episode is the caution it provides going forward. In nominating Gonidakis, the governor opened the door to his successors taking similar steps, diminishing a professional board with arch partisans. That isn’t to sell short the skills and intelligence of Gonidakis as a advocate. He can be formidable. The problem is the one identified by Frank LaRose, the conflict of interest highlighted by Michael Gonidakis.
If his departure reinforces the message of staying away from such appointments, all the better. Whatever the immediate outcome, this isn’t something to be repeated.