UAF doctor loses last college-level appeal to keep her job

Posted: Thursday, September 28, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The president of the University of Alaska has upheld a decision to release a doctor at the school's Health and Counseling Center, leaving Melinda Evans with no more appeals at the college level in the fight to keep her job.

Evans had appealed the decision of University of Alaska Fairbanks Chancellor Marshall Lind regarding the grievance she filed shortly after being told last winter that her contract would not be renewed.

Evans has exhausted her university-level appeals now that the matter has crossed President Mark Hamilton's desk. If she wishes to pursue the grievance, then she must take it to court.

''There's always a further level,'' said Bob Groseclose, Evans' attorney, ''and, yes, we've talked about it.''

Evans has 30 days to file an appeal.

''(The 30-day deadline) gives us some time to decide,'' Groseclose said. ''She is disappointed with the result and is considering the opportunity to press further.''

Evans was told last winter that she would not be retained in her job as the center's only doctor after a 14-year tenure.

She filed a grievance and the ensuing and rare public hearing in May directed attention at what university officials called a ''dysfunctional'' workplace.

The staff and the center's director, John Fellerath, often clashed, and Evans received letters of reprimand before being let go. Evans not only didn't like Fellerath's management style but also disagreed with plans for changes in the way the clinic provides services.

Carla Kirts, dean of student services, postponed the changes. But without a full-time doctor, Kirts signed an interim contract with a local physicians' group to handle clinic oversight, which was the primary thrust of the proposed change in services.

Critics of the plan -- including Evans, many members of the center staff and students -- said removing the doctor from the clinic would create too many problems for students who rely on the facility.

Hamilton decided not to overturn Evans' last reprimand, agreeing with the earlier decision of Lind and the hearing officer.

''Dr. Evans' lack of respect for Dr. Fellerath, however sincerely felt and even if warranted, did not justify her conduct,'' Hamilton wrote in a 20-page decision issued by his office.

''Dr. Evans was not the director of CHC, and if she questioned Dr. Fel-lerath's decisions, she should not have done so in front of other staff and should have treated him with a minimum of courtesy and at least an outward measure of respect, whatever her personal views about his competence might have been.''

Hamilton, acknowledging ''an atmosphere that was extremely unpleasant'' workplace for all involved, said the university was ''justified in issuing a formal reprimand to Dr. Evans, and it was acting well within (its) authority ... when it issued her the notice of nonretention.''

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