EL PASO, Texas - A Beaumont Army Medical Center nurse is speaking out about ABC-7's findings regarding cash and paid-time-off awards.
The nurse, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of losing their job said all employees have been ordered not to answer ABC-7's questions.
Documents uncovered by the I-Team show that the Director of the Department of Family Medicine, Dr. Melissa Molina awarded Kimberley Wodarz, the wife of the hospital's chief of resource management, $1,750 in cash awards and two weeks of paid time off in less than a year of employment. Wodarz's husband, Lt. Col. Christopher Wodarz, is the principal adviser to the commander on strategic and financial matters.
"It makes me feel embarassed as a nurse because I think ethics plays a very important part in this and it makes me feel angry there are so many good people, good nurses, good staff - and they have never been awarded (these cash awards), it's just the chosen few," said the nurse.
The documents also show that Molina hired her assistant's 23-year-old son for a nurse consulting job with an annual pay of $71,600. The documents show Andrew Garcia was directly hired, meaning his position was not advertised. No one else had the opportunity to apply for it. It's a move reserved for extremely qualified candidates in a hard to fill position.
"For your director to be doing these actions in a very unjust way, it's not what you know, but who you know... it's something that has been happening for many, many years and I think that it needs to be out in the open because that's the only way that this is going to stop," said the nurse.
The employee also takes issue with Garcia's position. "In order to be a consultant, I mean you should have some experience to be able to consult... I don't think it's fair not only to the people who are working there already, that are in the system but also to our soldiers, we need to stop and think what kind of service are our soldiers receiving."
The hospital commander, Col. Dennis D. Doyle, in a letter, said a review of Molina's cash and paid-time-off awards had revealed no evidence of favoritism.
"I am taking the additional step of bringing in an investigating officer from outside of this command to conduct a complete review of the civilian hiring and awards processes relating to the Department of Soldier and Family Medicine. As Commander, WBAMC, it is my responsibility to ensure that we are good stewards of taxpayer dollars, and to be transparent with the public as to how that funding is allocated," Col. Doyle wrote.
In the same department, ABC-7 discovered a paper trail showing Susana Aguilera, the hospital's chief union steward, also received more than $1,750 in bonuses within two months of being promoted to Molina's department.
"You have to merit that, you have to do something beyond your duty or something that will benefit your department, your soldiers or your team members. I don't know how someone with such short period of time could merit these awards," said the nurse.
Hospital officials, in a letter to ABC-7, wrote Molina submitted employees for more than 192 awards between May 2010 and July 2011. "Recognition and special act award recommendations are reviewed by committee and approved/disapproved at the command level based upon merit." WBAMC officials maintain they found no favoritism in Molina's issuance of such awards.
The nurse isn't sure that's the case.
"Even though we feel that we have been let down and that we're ashamed of what our superiors have been doing, we need to continue giving the good service and care to our soldiers because after all, they are why we're there," the employee said.