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IHS employee cited for 'misconduct' in Spirit Lake controversy

An Indian Health Service employee who raised concerns about the welfare of children on the Spirit Lake Dakotah Nation in North Dakota was reprimanded for "misconduct," according to a letter obtained by The New York Times.

The reprimand says Michael Tilus, a clinical psychologist, went outside the chain of command by releasing a letter that detailed his "grave concern" about children on the reservation. It was written on IHS letterhead but the agency claims superiors weren't notified first.

"Your conduct has been found to be engaging in actions and behaviors that is of a dishonorable nature, which reflects discredit upon yourself and the [Public Health Service]," the reprimand states.

The reprimand also states that Tilus released a "case study" that contained information about a specific incident on the reservation. Although names were redacted, the IHS says "many are aware of who the specific patient cited is, which makes the protection of confidential information a large concern."

Finally, the IHS reprimanded Tilus for sending a letter to Sen. Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota) and Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) about his concerns. Again, the agency says that superiors weren't notified.

Tilus has been removed from his post as behavioral health director on the reservation. He was denied a promotion and transferred to the IHS area office in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

Get the Story:
Psychologist Who Wrote of Abuse Is Punished (The New York Times 7/31)

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