CRAWFORD COUNTY - An investigation of former Crawford County Public Health Department Director Gloria Wall has resulted in two misdemeanor charges based on her alleged mishandling of prescription drugs.
Wall was charged with dispensing a prescribed drug without a practitioner’s prescription order and possessing an illegally obtained prescription drug. Both charges are Class U Misdemeanors, which carry penalties of up to six months in jail and fines up to $500.
The charges were presented in a criminal complaint dated February 13, 2018 and prepared by Vernon County District Attorney Timothy Gaskell, who will be prosecuting the case against Wall.
Vernon County Circuit Court Judge Darcy Rood will preside over the case, which is scheduled to be tried in Crawford County Circuit Court in Prairie du Chien.
Crawford County District Attorney Timothy Baxter and Crawford County Circuit Judge Lynn Rider recused themselves to avoid any appearance of impropriety in the case involving another county official.
Wall, the 69-year-old former head of the county health department, was removed from office in October by the Crawford County Board’s Personnel Committee for allowing longtime public health nurse Judy Powell to take earned vacation time past a county contract deadline. Powell was also removed from her position at that time.
At the time of their dismissal, Wall had worked at the county health department for 25 years and served as its director for more than 20 of those years. Powell had worked at the health department for 19 years.
The seven-and-a-half page criminal complaint against Wall dated February 13, 2018 appears to allege that Wall stockpiled unused drugs, which she was charged with destroying and that she allegedly issued those drugs at times to prisoners in the Crawford County Jail. The criminal complaint also noted that she might have offered to supply those drugs to social work clients of the county and clients of department of health. However, the complaint does not directly allege that this happened.
Much of the material used in the complaint was gathered by Vernon County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Jo Ellen Zitzner.
Prior to the investigator being summoned to Crawford County on October 23 by a request from Sheriff Dale McCullick to Vernon County Sheriff John Spears, parts of the preliminary investigation were handled by members of the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department and Prairie du Chien Police Lieutenant TJ Sprosty.
On October 20, Sprosty was contacted by Crawford County Sheriff Lieutenant Ryan Fradette to meet him at the Crawford County Administration Building, according to the criminal complaint. There, Sprosty met not only Fradette, but also Crawford County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Wade Hutchison, Crawford County Board Chairperson Tom Cornford, and County Board Supervisor Jerry Krachey (Chairperson of the Personnel Committee).
Sprosty then learned that days earlier, public health nurses Gloria Wall and Judy Powell had been escorted out of the administration building and were currently on ‘paid suspension.’
Cornford went on to say that after Wall was walked out, she contacted Crawford County Coroner Joseph Morovits to remove a box of medications from the office, the criminal complaints reported. According to Cornford and Krachey, “Morovits took the box of medications and put them in a locker outside of his office.”
It was explained to Sprosty that Dan McWilliams, Director of the Department of Human Services, located that box and the box of medication was placed back in Gloria Wall’s office and the locks to Wall’s office were changed, according to the criminal complaint.
McWilliams eventually joined the group gathered at the administration building on October 20.
McWilliams, Krachey and Cornford then advised Sprosty, Fradette and Hutchinson that they had suspected that Wall and Powell were re-administering medications to clients of the Crawford Jail, County Social Workers and Crawford County Health.
Cornford, Krachey and McWilliams then gave the three lieutenants permission to conduct a search of the offices of Wall and Powell, including other areas where medication may be stored the criminal complaint reports.
It was brought to the attention of the officers by McWilliams that several prescription pill medications had the names torn off, covered or blacked out, according to the criminal complaint.
McWilliams also advised that other staff had told him that they were directed by Wall to put newly printed labels from the office on the medication bottles, the criminal complaint states. Those employees allegedly told McWilliams that they were concerned for their job status by telling anyone about this and they were concerned with retribution.
During the search, the officers collected numerous prescription items, according to the criminal complaint.
Vernon County Sheriff’s Investigator Zitzner went to the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department on October 24 and met with Sheriff McCullick, Chief Deputy Sheriff Orrin Olson and Lieutenants Fradette and Sprosty.
Prairie du Chien Police Department Lieutenant Terry Sprosty gave Zitzner a report and said Powell and Wall were suspected of re-administering medications to clients of the Crawford County Jail, possibly Crawford County social workers and Crawford County Health.
Zitzner was told that some of the prescriptions were of deceased individuals or they were expired medication, according to the criminal complaint. When the investigator asked how they would have medications from deceased individuals, the officers explained that the public health department was also a drug take-back location. When medications were brought in, the staff would put them in Wall’s office and Wall was supposed to give them to Morovits to destroy.
When Zitzner met with McWilliams, he told her “a lot of his staff was very upset over the situation and it had been a hostile working environment,” the criminal complaint states.
Zitzner interviewed the county health department’s administrative assistant, Sharon Steele, and confirmed she made labels for bottles and that sometimes there were names on them and sometimes there weren't, according to the criminal complaint. Steele initially told Zitzner she probably did this five or ten times. However, she later acknowledged it could have been as many as 100 times.
Zitzner interviewed public health nurse Michelle Breuer who has worked at the county health department for more than nine years. Breuer stated that one time a couple of years ago she went to the jail with then public health nurse Deanna Wallin-Sanders to setup medications and when Wall found out about it she was not very happy, the criminal complaint reports.
Breuer said that when Wallin-Sanders worked there she told her to take the labels off the medications and blackout labels and put them in a bag so they could not be redistributed. Breuer said she did this for a while, but Wall told her to stop doing that and leave the labels alone.
Breuer did tell Zitzner that she did not deal with jail medications and that Wall and Powell would do that, according to the criminal complaint.
Public health nurse Lisa Crummer was also interviewed by Zitzner. Crummer is assigned to work with the Department of Human Services.
Crummer stated she was told that Wall kept the medication in her office to have on hand for people who did not have money, according to the criminal complaint. She told the investigator she expressed her concerns about this to Breuer and Heather McLimans her supervisor from DHS.
Zitzner interviewed McLimans who confirmed Crummer had concerns about medications and different prescriptions for people who were no longer clients.
Crawford County Jail Administrator Russell Wittig confirmed Wall set up medication on Tuesday mornings. He confirmed that Wall would sometimes bring samples over, but she would only allow those samples to go out to inmates that have an actual prescription of the medications, the criminal complaint states. The jailer said he noticed the county saved a lot of money on medications over the last few years and he did not know why.
Coroner Joseph Zitzner confirmed to Zitzner that he received a call from Wall on the morning of October 18 asking to get a box of medications out of a desk drawer, the criminal complaint noted.
Zitzner interviewed Powell at her residence and the longtime public health nurse confirmed they handled medications that were brought in by putting them in Wall’s office, according to the criminal complaint. Later they were taken to the coroner for disposal.
Powell said that Wall would have unopened medications from veterans and would reuse those. The public health nurse said she assumed this was for the jail.
Powell stated they were always for people who had valid prescriptions and she never did this, she rarely went to the jail, according to the criminal complaint.
Powell told Zitzner she assumed most of the medication and the labels that were made were for samples they had.
Powell stated that from what she understood, most of the inmate’s prescriptions came from the drugstore, but on a few occasions when an inmate did not have money or insurance for a prescription, Wall would help them out if they had the medicine available.
When Zitzner talked with Wall she asked why Wall called Morovits to dispose of the medicine on the same day she was walked out of her office, according to the criminal complaint. The veteran public health department director told her she did that because it was time to dispose of it.
When Zitzner asked Wall if she ever had her administrative assistant make labels for her, Wall said she did from time to time, the criminal complaint reported. Wall said it was mostly for samples of Abilify and Zoloft, which are for anxiety. The public health nurse told Zitzner she received sample bottles with 90 pills in them and if they had someone in the jail that had a prescription for that medicine but did not have the ability to get it, she would dispense some of the samples. Wall said there was not a jail physician.
When Zitzner asked Wall why she called Morovits to get the medication out of her office if she was not doing anything wrong and it was standard procedure to have it there, Wall said it was because of what nurse Lisa Crummer said about watching her back, according to the criminal complaint. Zitzner said if she wasn’t doing anything wrong she would not have to watch her back. Wall said she understood that, but she just thought it would be a good idea to get it (the box of medications) out of there.
Zitzner asked Wall about taking any of the medication from her office, putting it in another bottle and taking it to the jail, according to the criminal complaint. Wall allegedly said, “Bet you’ll find it hadn’t happened many times, but it happened a few times.” The public health nurse explained if somebody would come in from prison and had to go in front of the judge and the prison did not send their medications, she would try and accommodate them by getting the medication they needed.
Several times during the interview, Wall would somewhat admit to using the medication in the jail, and then she would back track and say it was only samples that she used in the jail, the criminal complaint stated.
On November 2, Zitzner re-interviewed Steele the administrative assistant and nurse Lisa Crummer.
Zitzner asked Steele if she saved labels in the (computer) system. The administrative assistant looked it up and found a blank label for Abilify and Zoloft, the criminal complaint reported.
Crummer told Zitzner that she never told Wall to watch her back.
“I did not say that to her nor would I,” Crummer is quoted as saying in the criminal complaint. “I had mentioned to Wall in the past that it’s not a good idea to have that medication in her office. I didn’t feel comfortable with that. I never told her to watch her back.”
Jailers Alexandria Kress and Dwight Kussmaul worked the night shift and set up the medications, according to the criminal complaint. Kress told Zitzner they have had concerns over the years regarding this and sometimes the bottles do not have a particular person’s name on the container.
An initial appearance on the two misdemeanor charges has been scheduled for Wednesday, March 14 at 10 a.m. in Crawford County Circuit Court before Substitute Judge Darcy Rood.