David Proffitt, head of Minnesota Security Hospital, resigns at state's request

Hospital administrator
David Proffitt, who was the Minnesota Security Hospital administrator, resigned Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at the request of the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

David Proffitt, the head of the state's largest hospital for the mentally ill and dangerous, has resigned at the request of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, the agency said Tuesday.

Proffitt, who had been hired to run the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter in August 2011, had come under criticism in recent months for allegedly creating a hostile work environment. The Department of Human Services opened an investigation into the allegations in December.

DHS confirmed Proffitt's departure in an email Tuesday afternoon.

"The claims that Mr. Proffitt engaged in any harassment, retaliation, or created a hostile work environment were unsubstantiated," the email from DHS deputy commissioner Anne Barry said. "However enough concerns have been raised and given the urgency with which change must be accomplished, we believe it is in the best interests of Minnesota Security Hospital and the patients we serve to change leadership."

In his nearly seven months at the Minnesota Security Hospital, Proffitt has garnered criticism from front line staff and doctors, who accused him of an abrasive, confrontational management style. Those concerns led to the departure of all of the facility's top psychiatry staff in recent months.

It continues, "Mr. Proffitt agrees, and effective immediately he has resigned his position as Chief Executive Officer of MSH. He will remain as a consultant during the transition to new leadership to help ensure we continue the progress toward better patient care." Proffitt, reached on his cell phone, declined to comment on the reasons he was asked to resign.

"The work that the forensic state operated services does is incredibly valuable to the state of Minnesota and I am not going to be a part of that in the future and I feel bad about that, but I really support the work they do," Proffitt said. "And that's basically all I have to say about it."

Barry, the DHS deputy commissioner, said she met with Proffitt Tuesday in St. Paul and asked him to resign. If Proffitt had refused, she said, he would have been fired.

The state has already hired a replacement for Proffitt. It appointed Carol Olson, the current administrator of the state-run Community Behavioral Health Hospitals in Rochester and St. Paul to head the facility. Barry said DHS officials had been planning for the possibility that they would need to hire someone to replace Proffitt if the investigation uncovered problems with his performance. Olson's appointment is effective immediately.

Proffitt will remain at DHS as a temporary consultant during the transition period, Barry said.

The hiring of Proffitt to lead the Minnesota Security Hospital, despite concerns about his performance at his previous appointment at Acadia Hospital in Bangor, Maine, raised questions about the hiring process. Proffitt was hired by DHS after the department asked the previous administrator to resign.

Several of the departed psychiatrists are being represented by an employment law attorney, Gregg Corwin, who has declined to say whether the psychiatrists plan to sue the state.

Proffitt said he hopes he will be able to remain employed at DHS in a different position. He said that was a possibility, but declined to provide details.

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