Anne Mitchell, a veteran nurse at Winkler Memorial Hospital, was fired for writing a confidential letter of complaint to the Texas Medical Board about one of the hospital’s doctors.
Mitchell had reported to the medical board that Dr. Rolando Arafiles Jr. improperly prescribed herbal medicines that he sold on the side and that he performed unauthorized surgical procedures.
After the medical board informed Arafiles about the whistleblower complaint, he contacted the Winkler County Sheriff, Robert Roberts, a former patient of Arafiles. Roberts issued a search warrant to seize the nurses’ computers and found Mitchell’s letter.
As a result, Mitchell was charged by the Kermit, Texas police with a third-degree felony count of “misuse of official information” and could face 10 years in prison if convicted.
The medical board spokeswoman said, “Our mission at the Texas Medical Board is to protect patients through the regulation of doctors. That said, we are a complaint-driven agency and the only way that we learn that something may be amiss with doctors is when it comes from co-workers, doctors, peers in the hospital, patients and patients’ families.”
Mitchell has responded by filing a civil lawsuit against the county, hospital, sheriff, doctor and prosecutor, accusing them of vindictive prosecution and denial of the nurse’s First Amendment free speech rights.