UK professor who won whistleblower settlement for loss of post-retirement job returns to run oral health program for 18 months
When he retired from the University of Kentucky dental school several years ago, Raynor Mullins, now 74, continued working for UK on efforts to improve oral health in the state, especially in rural areas.
When he lost that job, he alleged in a lawsuit that it was retribution for his criticism of Gov. Matt Bevin’s removal of dental care as a basic benefit for the working poor in Medicaid. Last month, as the case was about to go to trial, the university agreed to pay him $620,000 and rehire him.
His new job will be director of a new Oral Health Innovation Initiative in the College of Public Health
, with the first big goal developing a strategic plan for the initiative. It will receive $100,000 in start-up funding and “Mullins will be paid $52,800 for working 40 percent of a full-time job” for 18 months, and hold the rank of professor, Linda Blackford reports
for the Lexington Herald-Leader
His attorney, Joe Childers, told Blackford, “Dr. Mullins is excited to lead this new Oral Health Innovation Initiative, and believes it will lead to long-term gains for the health of Kentuckians. It is truly a win-win for both Dr. Mullins and the University of Kentucky.”
In settling the lawsuit, “UK did not admit that College of Dentistry Dean Stephanos Kyrkanides had pushed Mullins out for his comments, despite numerous depositions from witnesses who heard Kyrkanides say that Mullins had to go,” Blackford notes. “In agreeing to allow the lawsuit to go to trial, U.S. District Judge Robert Weir called the case ‘the epic story of academic intrigue and the place of free speech.'” Mullins’ post-retirement job did not have traditional tenure protection.
The first named defendant had been Mark Birdwhistell, the UK HealthCare vice president and former state Medicaid director who helped Bevin’s staff draft the proposed changes. Mullins claimed Kyrkanides was acting at the direction of Birdwhistell, who was acting at the behest of Bevin or his agents. The other defendant was “John Doe,” identified only as a member of the governor’s administration. They were dismissed from the case several months ago, after Mullins amended his complaint to exclude them. Bevin’s office denied any interference.