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Director of Bay Pines VA Medical Center to retire

ST. PETERSBURG — The director of the Bay Pines VA Medical Center who has faced scrutiny over allegations his administration retaliated against workers filing discrimination complaints is retiring, Bay Pines officials confirmed on Friday.

Wallace Hopkins told his staff earlier this year that he will retire as soon as the Department of Veterans Affairs selects his replacement. VA officials could not say when that may occur.

Hopkins, 64, is ending a VA career spanning more than 35 years and numerous states including Texas, Indiana and Minnesota. He came to Bay Pines in March 2005 after heading VA facilities in Massachusetts and Texas.

VA officials said Hopkins would not speak to the St. Petersburg Times regarding his tenure at the St. Petersburg facility, which is one of the nation's busiest veterans hospitals.

A federal judge in November 2009 issued a stunning rebuke of Bay Pines officials after four Bay Pines employees, including three doctors, won a $3.7 million verdict over allegations that Bay Pines illegally retaliated when they filed workplace discrimination complaints.

The four women had filed several workplace complaints including allegations that their gender hindered advancement at Bay Pines.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Tom McCoun ordered Bay Pines leaders, including Hopkins, to undergo remedial instruction on workplace retaliation.

The judge, who also barred Bay Pines from further discrimination or retaliation against its 3,000 employees, noted testily that none of Bay Pines leaders were dismissed or even reprimanded after the big verdict.

"Indeed, it appears that no changes have been made at all at Bay Pines VA in response to the verdicts in this case," McCoun said in his order.

Bay Pines police officers also are suing Bay Pines over alleged workplace retaliation in a case that is pending in Tampa federal court.

Hopkins earned a master's degree at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Hopkins, an Air Force veteran, served a combat tour in Vietnam from 1972 to 1973, according to the VA.

The VA also is searching for a director at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa after the retirement of director Steve Lucas last March.

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3432.

Director of Bay Pines VA Medical Center to retire 03/04/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 4, 2011 10:15pm]

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