Arizona Governor Replaces Massage Therapy Board After Republic Inquiry


Less than two weeks after The Arizona Republic published in-depth study sexual abuse investigation in the massage industry, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced he ousted all members of the Arizona State of Massage Therapy board and replaced them with new members.

Ducey made the announcement on Friday, stating in a declaration that “it is essential that the State Board of Massage Therapy protect massage clients, especially those in a vulnerable position. I have no doubts that those appointed today will.”

The five members regulatory board is appointed by the governor and is responsible for licensing the 10,600 massage therapists in the state and investigating complaints against them.

A representative from the governor’s office called board members on Friday morning, told them they were being replaced and thanked them for their service.

Ducey’s announcements mean longtime board chair Victoria Bowmann, a 43-year registered massage therapist, will no longer serve. Mlee Clark, massage therapist, and John Ortega and Nick McClain, both members of the public and not involved in the massage industry, are also leaving. Bowmann and Ortega sat on expired terms, as is often the case with regulators, while Clark and McClain still had time for their five-year terms.

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A fifth seat on the board of directors has been vacant since June, when a member of the board of directors Kevin Ramsey abruptly quits after a reporter from the Republic of Arizona asked him about his connections to the Massage Envy franchise chain and why he voted for Massage Envy therapists.

The monthly board meeting, scheduled for Monday, was canceled after Ducey’s announcement.

Bowmann declined to comment on Ducey’s decision to replace the current board on Friday.

The Republic earlier this month detailed in a five month investigation how approximately 100 massage therapists have been the subject of complaints to the state licensing board for allegedly exposing, fondling, sexually abusing, or sexually assaulting their clients over the past eight years. Of those 100 people, about half have not had their license revoked. Some have been suspended or put on probation. Others have had their complaints dismissed or received only warning letters. At least one therapist has been charged twice and still has a license.

Arizona State of Massage Therapy board member Kevin Ramsey resigned in June after being asked by The Arizona Republic about his votes related to Massage Envy therapists.

Women who had filed complaints with the board said reluctance to discipline therapists put clients at risk.

The Republic’s investigation also detailed how the Arizona massage industry is loosely regulated and how it is. difficult for clients to consult therapists.

Three of the five members of the licensing board have historically been registered massage therapists, a legal arrangement that tips the scales in favor of the industry, critics say. State Law changed in August 2020 to return this composition, requiring three members of the public and two massage therapists. But the governor’s office was slow to fill the vacancies on a change that would give the public greater input into licensing decisions.

Emily Harris, who filed a complaint against a massage therapist in 2018, said the announcement of the board replacement was good news.

“My story is not unique, but I am happy to see Governor Ducey take steps to ensure the protection of clients now and in the future,” Harris said Friday.

Harris accused the therapist of sexual assault, but he denied the allegations. The board of directors unanimously voted to dismiss the complaint and sent him only an advisory letter, a non-disciplinary action stating that he “could have exercised better professional judgment and engaged in better communications with your client “.

Christina Corieri, Ducey’s senior advisor, said the governor’s office made changes to the board after reading the Republic’s investigation and researching the allegations detailed in the article. In particular, she said the governor’s office was concerned about the months-long delays in disciplinary hearings for massage therapists and what she called “dismissive” comments some board members have made to women. who had filed complaints.

“These were of great concern to us,” she said.

Ducey said on Friday that three of his new board members had experience defending and supporting victims.

“The state is committed to implementing policies and best practices that will help keep Arizona customers safe, and will continue to work with industry professionals and members of the spa community. in the future, ”he said.

The five new appointees are:

  • Audience member Myriah Mhoon is the CEO of New Life Center, a large domestic violence shelter. She worked as a social worker and helped staff the Arizona Guidelines for Developing a Regional Response to Youth Sex Trafficking project through the Arizona Human Trafficking Council.
  • Bailey DeRoest, a member of the public, is the co-director of the Sojourner Center, a program for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking in Arizona. DeRoest has over 17 years of experience serving victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, first as an emergency shelter manager, then as a chief operating officer. .
  • Lisa Lucchesi, member of the public, is a national specialist in human trafficking in Aetna, where she develops and manages programs.
  • Michael Tapscott, Registered Massage Therapist, is a Senior Massage Therapy Instructor at Gateway Community College. He has over 25 years of experience as a massage therapist.
  • Angela Reiter, a Registered Massage Therapist, is the owner of Integrative Therapeutic Massage and Body Work. Reiter is a graduate of the Chicago School of Massage Therapy and has been practicing as a Registered and Board Certified Massage Therapist since 1994.

Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-8072. Follow her on Twitter @anneryman.

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