Disturbing allegations against psychologist at Vt. treatment center

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Disturbing allegations about the clinical director at a now-defunct drug treatment center. Investigative Reporter Jennifer Costa got her hands on documents that outline a disturbing pattern of intimidation and sexual harassment.

The documents show psychologist Charles Sprague Simonds is charged with 11 professional conduct violations during his time at the Maple Leaf Treatment Center. His license to practice is now in jeopardy.

Maple Leaf has had its share of problems this year, from allegations of poor care and understaffing to a sudden closure and a Medicaid fraud investigation.

"This is a program that's been around for 50 years and to see it go down so quickly like this, it's really tragic," then-Vermont Deputy Health Commissioner Barbara Cimaglio said in February.

Now, the secretary of state's Office of Professional Regulation has slapped the facility's clinical director with troubling violations. Documents allege during Charles Sprague Simonds' 10 months at Maple Leaf, he created a "hostile work and treatment environment" through a pattern of disturbing conduct.

Simonds is accused making comments about female patients, calling them "whores" or saying they look "sexy" and asking inappropriate details about their sex lives. Staff members allege he showed young women favoritism, made promises about drug treatment and bypassed waiting lists to get them help ahead of others.

He's accused of yelling and physically intimidating patients. Some refused to file complaints fearing he would pull their treatment opportunities.

Staffers go on to paint a nasty picture of their work environment, telling the state Simonds routinely threatened, cursed and yelled at them, calling them derogatory names like "retarded," "monkeys," "fat and lazy," and threatening to fire them at will while sexually harassing female subordinates.

Co-workers claim Simonds banned them from referring residential patients to facilities closer to their homes, instructed them to alter referrals to keep them in the Maple Leaf system and fired a clinician who refused to follow these orders. He is also accused of telling staff members to lie to the state about staffing to maintain funding and of directing clinicians to keep patients longer than necessary to drum up revenue.

WCAX News has confirmed that after Maple Leaf closed, Simonds was hired by the state in October to work with children at the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center as the clinical chief. He was fired Wednesday. Woodside officials say they knew about troubles at Maple Leaf but tell us they were unaware of any allegations against Simonds. They say they called his previous employers and references before hiring him.

Simonds has 20 days to respond to the secretary of state's allegations. We reached out to his lawyer but have not heard back.

If a licensing review board decides the state has proven its case of unprofessional conduct, Simond's discipline could range from a reprimand to a revocation of his license.

Click here for the alleged violations against Simonds brought by the Office of Professional Regulation.