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Police investigation could not confirm who, if anyone, stole from dental clinic

Police investigation could not confirm who, if anyone, stole from dental clinic

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A Longview Police investigation ultimately could not determine who, if anyone, stole documents from a Longview dental clinic that came under fire from former employees and patients last week.

The investigation began after Dr. Sam Wise, who owns and operates Lower Columbia Oral Health in Longview, reported to the police department in December that former clinic director Austin Covington had stolen a folder containing a list of names of patients who had left the practice, according to the completed police report.

According to the report, Wise told the officer he had released Covington on Nov. 18. Another employee who moved into Covington’s office said the documents appeared to be missing, but that employee acknowledged that they were not known to be missing until nearly a month later, on Dec. 11.

Additionally, multiple employees have access to the office during the day, the employee said. Covington denied taking the documents when interviewed by the officer, according to the report.

Ultimately, the officer found: “I was not able to determine if the documents have been stolen or missing. Further, due to the excess foot traffic in (and) out of the unsecured office, I was not able to determine who had stolen the documents if they were indeed stolen.”

Covington said Wise’s accusation was a “joke,” and added that he is still pursuing a potential class-action lawsuit along with other employees against Wise for treatment of employees, patients and workplace conditions.

Wise declined to comment Friday.

Former employees have also disputed Wise’s claim that they were fired. (Wise told TDN last week that he has fired about 10 employees since taking over the clinic in August.) Covington said he was laid off. Former dental assistant Crystal Handwerk said she quit from the clinic because she could no longer justify working for Wise. Wendy Buck and Tiffani Dschaak both said they finally quit after new employee policies were instituted at the clinic.

“For him to blatantly say that he has fired all of us is an incorrect statement,” Covington said.

Wise has denied employee claims about the new policies and maintained that the documents those employees have shared are falsified.

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