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A shelf cloud rolls behind the Louisiana State Capitol, caused by thunderstorm outflow, as storms move into the metro area, Thursday afternoon, July 13, 2017, in Baton Rouge, La.

Less than a week after lawmakers tore into the Louisiana Physical Therapy Board for its handling of sexual misconduct cases, the state board moved to bring on a consulting firm to assist with crisis management and hire a new attorney to advise the board moving forward. 

In a special meeting late Tuesday, the board interviewed five candidates to replace — on an interim basis — the two attorneys who previously served as general counsel and their prosecuting attorney. Both of the attorneys faced sharp criticism from state lawmakers last week.

The board voted to award the contract to Celia Cangelosi, a Baton Rouge attorney who represents at least six other state boards including pharmacy and dentistry, and came with a variety of recommendations for how the physical therapy board could improve, including rule changes.  

Board members also voted to enter into a contract with local firm SSA Consultants to help with crisis management and communication moving forward.

The open meeting in Baton Rouge marked the second time the board has met since legislators blasted the board and its former attorneys for how they responded to sexual misconduct allegations against physical therapists, including the case of Philippe Veeters, a Baton Rouge practitioner now facing multiple criminal cases of sexual battery. 

"Time is of the essence," said Karl Kleinpeter, the board's secretary and treasurer. "We want to make sure this process is as transparent as possible."

Last Thursday, also in a special meeting, board members decided to terminate contracts with its general counsel, Courtney Newton and its prosecuting attorney, George Papale. Both helped investigate sexual misconduct allegations for the board.

Papale, who was not present for the Senate and Governmental Affairs hearing May 15 where the board faced sharp criticism, was singled out by lawmakers for his handling of sexual misconduct complaints, including how he responded to the Veeters' complaints. The board vowed to hold a competitive bid for their replacements.

Papale and Newton, who are father and daughter, were not hired through competitive solicitation. 

Details of the contracts with SSA Consultants and Cangelosi were not complete late Tuesday, as the board voted for a three-member committee to hash out the specifics at a later time. 

"The important thing is what are you going to do," Rudy Gomez, a partner at SSA Consultants, told the board Tuesday. "That’s what people want to hear and understand and be confident in."

The board, including its now terminated attorneys, are scheduled to go back before the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee next week to answer more questions.

Last week, Sens. J.P. Morrell and Karen Carter Peterson, both New Orleans Democrats, skewered the board for failing to revoke licenses after physical therapists settled, and in some cases even admitted, charges of sexual misconduct with patients.

They heard testimony from two of the nine victims who have reported that Veeters, 54,  sexually assaulted them under the guise of medical treatment, and expressed their concern for how the women were treated by the board.

The two women reported their allegations to the board, one that led to Veeters nine-month suspension that began in November. The other investigation remains ongoing. 

Board members Tuesday night were interested in finding an attorney with expertise in administrative law, as well as experience dealing with sexual misconduct allegations and going before the legislature.

Cangelosi said she has only handled one sexual assault case before a state licensing board about 25 years ago, but it did lead to a chiropractor's license being revoked. She also told board members she was comfortable addressing lawmakers and had specific recommendations for improving the Physical Therapy Board rules. 


Follow Grace Toohey on Twitter, @grace_2e.