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Monday, January 6, 2014

Why the County Might Be Paying $260,000 for a Pair of Shoes

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Mon, Jan 6, 2014 at 12:14 PM

Jail_stock.jpg

In late 2011 and early 2012, a Multnomah County jail nurse warned officers again and again to give an inmate back his special shoes. If they'd have listened, the county would be $260,000 richer.

Instead, it appears, jail staff let inmate Franklin Millner's medical crisis languish. Now, the Board of Commissioners will vote Thursday on a sizable settlement with Millner, who sued in September, claiming the jail staff's bungled and bizarre handling of his situation led to gruesome wounds and more than $203,000 in medical procedures later on.

Millner, according to the lawsuit [pdf], was arrested in December 2011. Court records indicate he'd been indicted the previous May on felony theft charges. The man is diabetic, and has a related condition that forces him to wear special shoes—called orthotics—or risk severe bone infection.

He was wearing them while arrested on December 22, 2011. But he was in jail—they took his shoes.

Millner (whose full name, by the way, is Franklin Delano Millner) claims he made pleas that he needed the footwear, and the suit says a nurse at the county's Inverness Jail, Claudia Carlsen, repeatedly warned higher-ups over more than two months that they should simply give the man his shoes. Meanwhile, officials waffled or did nothing, the suit says, and Millner's feet began to swell and formed an oozing, foul-smelling ulcer.

On January 26, 2012, according to the lawsuit, Carlsen wrote "Please allow client to use his orthotic shoes from property—severe foot disease and risk infection without orthotic.".

And still, Millner didn't get his shoes. The inmate sent several handwritten notes to Randy McPherson, the nursing supervisor, and was eventually assured the county would arrange a visit with a podiatrist. But it wasn't until March 3—more than nine weeks after his arrest—Millner got the footwear. Three days later, he saw a foot doctor, who confirmed what Carlsen had been saying for months. "As expected, the podiatrist stated the obvious, that Mr. Millner needs to wear his special orthotic shoes," the suit says.

Since laces aren't allowed in jail, deputies initially tried to duct tape Millner's shoes on. Millner says it was March 16, 2012, by the time the county got the footwear fitted with velcro straps.

"As expected, by March 30, 2012, Mr. Millner had developed a diabetic ulcer on the right bottom of his foot that was bleeding, oozing and extremely painful to walk on," the suit says.

The damage was so bad, the document claims, that Millner was ordered confined to a wheelchair for several weeks (though he says the sheriff's office forced him to walk to a court date). The man says he eventually needed several surgeries and therapy using a hyperbaric chamber, a total of $203,186 in care.

According to county documents, the board of commissioners will vote Thursday on whether to approve a $260,000 settlement with the man. Such votes are typically perfunctory, with commissioners well-informed by county counsel on the case ahead of time.

Lt. Steve Alexander, a sheriff's office spokesperson, said he couldn't immediately comment on the situation, or why jail staff didn't simply give Millner back his shoes.

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