Worker accused of giving marijuana to elderly care-facility resident

By: - September 16, 2022 4:13 pm

An employee of an Iowa care facility has been denied jobless benefits after being accused of giving a resident marijuana to smoke. (Photo by Getty Images)

An Iowa man hired to assist elderly residents in an Iowa care facility has been denied jobless benefits after being accused of giving an elderly resident of the home marijuana to smoke.

According to state records, Tyrone E. Wright was employed as a direct-service professional for Waterloo’s Neuro Rehabcare, a licensed residential care facility, from November of 2020 through August of last year when he was suspended without pay and then fired.

Wright was suspended amid an investigation that was launched after one of the home’s elderly residents was observed to be impaired and smoking marijuana.

This resident told the staff of the home that Wright had provided the marijuana. Wright denied the allegation and said he had seen the resident smoking marijuana in the home a number of times. Wright’s employer noted that if his claim were true, his failure to report a resident’s possession of, and repeated use of, marijuana had violated company policy.

Due to the resident’s allegation, Wright’s explanation, and his history of past discipline, he was fired. His subsequent request for unemployment benefits went before an administrative law judge this year and Wright was denied benefits.

In August 2016, while employed by Northcrest Specialty Care, Wright was pulled over by police who reported finding seven bags of marijuana in the car, a rolled marijuana cigar and a weighing scale with marijuana residue. Two weeks later, Wright was pulled over again by police and was reported to be holding 10 plastic bags of marijuana.

Wright was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and was eventually placed on probation and given a deferred judgment.

Court records indicate that on Nov. 21 of last year, three days after he began working at Neuro Rehabcare, Wright was pulled over by police for allegedly driving erratically. Police reported that Wright was in possession of hemp-flower cigarettes, and that lab test showed the presence of “three illegal drugs” in his system. He was subsequently charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated. The charge is still pending.

Wright said Friday he did not provide marijuana to residents of Neuro Rehabcare, and said his superiors were aware that at least two residents of the home had been smoking marijuana there long before he was hired.

Among the other recent, published decisions related to Iowans’ unemployment claims:

— Cody Hagen, a patient-access associate at Allen Memorial Hospital, was fired in March after a co-worker accused her of violating federal patient-privacy laws. As Hagen explained the situation to her superiors, an individual she thought was incarcerated had appeared at the hospital and, in a panic, she called her mother to relay that information. An administrative law judge awarded Hagen benefits, calling her actions an “isolated incident of poor judgment.”

— Jessica Brown, a certified medical assistant at Eastern Iowa Health Center, was fired in March after she allegedly violated federal patient-privacy laws. While talking to a patient, she discovered the man worked at the same company as her husband and that the two men knew each other. Later, the patient’s wife walked past Brown and handed her a folded-up piece of paper, alleging Brown’s husband was cheating on her. Brown was upset and called her husband. After some discussion, the couple determined the accusation was false and represented an attempt by a disgruntled coworker to cause problems for Brown’s husband. Brown, who had not identified the patient by name to her husband, later told her superiors of the conversation, saying she had only told her husband what shift the patient worked. Days later, however, the patient complained that Brown had described him to her husband by detailing his shoes, height, job title and work shift – and the husband had allegedly used that information to figure out his identity. Brown was fired the next day. An administrative law judge awarded Brown benefits, noting that she had been forthcoming with her superiors by reporting the matter the day it occurred. The patient, the judge ruled, had “no compelling reason” to be truthful, particularly if he was unhappy with Brown’s husband and was trying to “cause trouble.”

— Larry Koch, a maintenance worker for the City of Fort Dodge, was forced to resign from his job in March, shortly after an incident in which he turned in front of oncoming traffic while driving a city garbage truck. A state trooper stopped Koch and gave him a verbal warning for failing to yield, allegedly stating he was not issuing a ticket only because troopers and city workers are “on the same team.” Later that day, however, the trooper allegedly informed Koch’s boss of the incident. Citing a similar, previous incident that involved Koch turning in front of traffic, the city gave Koch the option of being fired or resigning. He chose to resign and was later denied unemployment benefits.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

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