A former administrator is suing Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center claiming it violated his medical privacy and retaliated against him when he complained about being sexually harassed by two other top-ranking hospital officials.
Howard Perch II, who until February 2017 was top administrator of the now-closed Florida Hospital Oceanside, filed two other related lawsuits against current and former officers of the hospital, Darlinda Copeland and Robert Davis.
Copeland was previously the chief operating officer of Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center in Daytona Beach and in July 2018 took the same position at Florida Hospital Ocala. Davis was the chief nursing officer for Florida Hospital Flagler in Palm Coast until December 2017 when he left the nonprofit hospital system after 19 years there.
Copeland did not return phone messages and Davis could not be reached for this story.
Lindsay Cashio, assistant director of communications for the hospital, declined to address specifics in the lawsuit.
"Florida Hospital takes all legal matters seriously and this case is in active litigation," Cashio wrote in an email. "While we will not discuss this case publicly, we know the former employee pursuing this litigation has a troubled past. It is unfortunate that targeting the people who worked closest with him by asserting outlandish allegations appears to be his next tactic."
Perch, who was 50 at the time, was arrested in February 2017 and charged with obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, trafficking between 14 to 28 grams of hydrocodone and concealing information to obtain a prescription. Perch's criminal case has disappeared from public view because his records were sealed by court order. How the case was resolved is unknown but Perch was not convicted since that would have prevented him from getting his records sealed.
The investigation began in July 2014 when a pharmacist in Ormond Beach tipped off police about a prescription called in on a weekend supposedly from Dr. Gerald Woodard. But when the pharmacist checked, Woodard denied calling in the prescription and also said he had not authorized anyone to use his prescription number. Perch was identified on video as the person picking up the hydrocodone prescription.
Investigators said that Perch was getting hydrocodone and oxycodone from more than one doctor during a 30-day period, which violates Florida law. Investigators found that Woodard had issued a few prescriptions to Perch as a result of a hospital visit.
Circuit Judge Kathryn Weston signed an order on Oct. 22 sealing the records, noting that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement had found Perch was eligible for the benefit. The order only lists the charge of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.
An internet reputation company sent an email to The Daytona Beach News-Journal last month requesting the story about Perch's arrest be removed from the newspaper's website. The three lawsuits against the hospital system and the other administrators were discovered during a public records check by the newspaper.
Perch began working for Florida Hospital on Oct. 30, 2011, was promoted four times and in February 2017 was “constructively terminated” from the hospital within weeks of when he reported the allegations against his superiors, the lawsuit states.
Perch on July 6 filed the lawsuit against the hospital alleging that Adventist Health System, doing business as Florida Hospital Medical Center and Florida Hospital Oceanside, violated his medical privacy by revealing confidential medical information, including information protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, commonly referred to as HIPAA. Perch's suit accuses the hospital of negligence and a conspiracy because numerous people were accessing his private medical records.
Perch’s lawsuit said Woodard violated his privacy by revealing his confidential medical information with other hospital personnel and saying that Perch had a “drug problem." Perch also said the hospital violated Florida’s Whistleblower Act by retaliating against him when he reported sexual misconduct, according to the lawsuit.
Perch said that after he attempted several times to meet with local hospital system CEO Ed Noseworthy about the sexual harassment he was told by his direct supervisor, Vice President April Chilson, and Copeland, “that there would be no meeting with Noseworthy,” the lawsuit states.
In court filings, hospital attorney Mason Grower III denied the accusations. Grower also responded that the hospital was not required to get Perch's authorization to access his medical records "under the circumstances following Mr. Perch's arrest." The attorney also denied in the filing that hospital leaders were told by Dr. Woodward prior to February 2017 that Perch had a drug problem.
Grower, who did not return calls for comment, and his firm also represent Copeland and Davis. Perch is represented by Frederick Morello, who did not return calls.
Perch, on the social media website wattepad, described himself as an administrator and an athlete from Ormond Beach who attended Flagler Palm Coast High School where he played baseball and football. He could not be reached.
A dropped dress
Perch’s lawsuit against Copeland accuses her of civil battery.
According to the suit, on May, 28, 2014, Perch received a text message from Copeland asking “Do you take it in the A.” Then, three days later, Perch and Copeland both attended the Governor’s Sterling Awards in Orlando. Copeland, who at the time was a vice president at the hospital, asked him to walk her to her hotel room for safety.
Once at the door to her hotel room Copeland told Perch she needed help getting out of her formal ball gown and asked him to unzip the dress, the lawsuit states. Perch said he asked how she got the dress on and she responded she called the front desk and they dispatched someone to zip it for her.
When Perch unzipped the dress, Copeland allowed it to crumple to the floor, the suit states. Then she grabbed Perch and tried to drag him into the room, the lawsuit states, and Perch “forcibly pulled away.”
Perch then checked out of the hotel to avoid running into Copeland in the morning and went home to his wife, the lawsuit states.
Perch also accuses Copeland in the lawsuit of sending him other sexually suggestive texts, some with photos, throughout the time he worked under her supervision. She often hugged and “pressed her female anatomy against his male anatomy without consent,” the suit states.
In a legal response, Copeland’s attorney, Grower, states that the only specific example cited by Perch is the unzippered dress and that other allegations in the lawsuit are vague.
Copeland in court documents also denies exchanging any text messages with Perch.
Perch, who also accuses Davis of civil battery, invited him to a meet at the Oyster Pub in Daytona Beach in November 2016. But Davis turned out to be the only other person at the “purported meeting.”
After about 10 minutes of talking business, Davis started talking about sex, the suit states. Davis told Perch that he loved him and missed him and that next time they meet they should get “room service.” Perch rejected Davis’ advances, saying he was happily married, the lawsuit states.
At the end of the evening, Davis asked Perch for a ride to his truck. On the way to the truck, Davis reached over with his left hand and started touching Perch’s crotch and unzipping Perch’s pants, the lawsuit states. Davis then looked at Perch and said “maybe next time I’ll have better luck.”
Perch told his secretary the next day never to schedule a one-on-one meeting with Davis again, the suit states.
Davis routinely texted Perch inappropriate messages that included naked pictures of Davis, groped Perch’s buttocks or touched him inappropriately and kissed him, the lawsuit states.
Perch’s lawsuit states that he had to fend Davis off many times “throughout his employment” but did not report him because he feared losing his job and retaliation since Davis was a vice president.
Davis denied the allegations in a court response filed by Grower. Davis also denied that he tried to give Perch a bottle of hydrocodone when Perch complained of pain.
Davis does say in court filing that “it is entirely possible” he did hug Perch but he could not recall a specific instance.
“Mr. Davis treated all co-workers with the utmost caring and respect. He would often express his admiration and gratitude through hugs,” Grower wrote in the response.