Drug charges lead to dentist's suspension

Catonsville man accused of intoxication on the job

March 02, 2004|By Walter F. Roche Jr. | Walter F. Roche Jr.,SUN STAFF

A state licensing board has indefinitely suspended a Catonsville dentist who was accused by an employee of being so high on cocaine that he didn't react after jabbing himself with a needle while working inside patients' mouths, records show.

Under an order issued last month, the state Board of Dental Examiners summarily suspended the license of Charles P. Franz, 41, noting regulations that prohibit a dentist from practicing while under the influence of drugs. The board ordered him to immediately turn in his credentials.

The emergency suspension followed by nearly four months Franz's arrest on cocaine possession charges. He is also charged with possession of OxyContin, records show.

Franz, before his suspension, operated dental offices in Columbia, Halethorpe and Catonsville.

State records show that complaints against Franz by patients date back more than a year, but those complaints were either dismissed or not acted upon by the state board.

Gregg Bernstein, an attorney representing Franz, said that his client has entered not-guilty pleas to the charges, and that the dentist was going to request a hearing with the state dental board and seek restoration of his right to practice dentistry.

"He intends to exercise all his available rights and will show that he is, in fact, competent to practice," Bernstein said.

The dentist is scheduled to appear to face the drug charges April 14 in Catonsville District Court. His wife, Denise Franz, who worked as a hygienist in the dental practice, was arrested on identical charges and is awaiting the same court date, court records show.

The order from the dental board points to charging documents and Baltimore County police records, which show that the original investigation of the dentist and his wife stemmed from information provided by family members, including a retired police officer.

Family members, including children of the couple, told police they witnessed the couple "snorting white powder through straws, behaving irrationally and staying up until early morning hours," according to the dental board complaint, which notes county police reports. The complaint states that when concerned family members tried to intervene, Franz and his wife "were unreceptive and became panicked and hostile towards them."

The complaint states that a former employee at Franz's offices on Hammonds Ferry and Frederick roads called police and told them that on Oct. 24 Franz "was so intoxicated on cocaine that he stabbed himself in the hand with a syringe three different times while his hands were in the mouths of patients and did not say or do anything about it."

The former employee told police she was fired after she questioned Franz about the incidents, the dental board complaint states.

Her accusations led to police surveillance and the arrest of the Franzes. Police also conducted a raid on their home where drugs that later turned out to be cocaine and OxyContin were confiscated, according to charging documents.

The earlier complaints against Franz include one filed by Lacey Slacum, a Baltimore County high school senior, who said she went to Franz's office in January last year to have sealants placed on her teeth. Instead, she said, Franz inexplicably began drilling, claiming that she had a cavity.

Slacum said she protested but Franz continued the drilling without giving her any medication. She said that when she asked Franz to check with her father, Daniel Slacum, who was sitting in the waiting area, Franz claimed he couldn't find him.

Daniel Slacum said that his daughter's dental record showed she was extremely sensitive to drilling and had a history of migraine headaches. As a result of the drilling, he and his daughter said, she ended up in the hospital with a severe migraine episode.

The Slacums filed a formal complaint with the dental board and swore out a criminal assault charge filed against Franz, but the county state's attorney's office dropped the charge, court records show. The dental board, without explanation, dismissed her complaint in June.

"Unfortunately, there is nothing more the board can tell you about the disposition of your case," a dental board official wrote in a June 21 letter to the Slacums. Dental board officials declined to comment last week.

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