Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

U.S. House committee investigating Haley VA's use of covert camera

TAMPA — The U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee has opened an investigation into the use of a video camera disguised as a smoke detector in a veteran's room at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center.

Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the committee, said the use of the camera in the room of severely brain-damaged veteran Joseph Carnegie, 80, outraged him. The covert camera was first reported in a July 10 story by the Tampa Bay Times.

News of the investigation comes as Haley officials, still defending the use of the camera, confirmed for the first time Tuesday the device was the only one of its type in use at the hospital. They said it will not be used again.

"There should never be a need for covert, Big Brother tactics" in a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital, Miller, R-Pensacola, said in an email response to questions.

Miller said the VA's lack of transparency was a concern to him.

"This is unacceptable. VA must be transparent to the media and Congress, but more important, to our veterans. That is what is most troublesome about this incident. It breaks the sacred trust between the VA and veterans and their families.

"Without that trust, veterans will begin to feel dismissed by their government, and that is the last thing I want to see happen … There is a huge accountability issue here. No one seems to want to take responsibility for clearly irresponsible acts."

A Haley spokeswoman said the VA had sent a response to the committee. The agency did not respond to a request to provide a copy to the Times.

But in a statement to the Times, Haley officials again defended their use of the camera, saying such equipment is routine among hospitals to ensure patient safety.

The camera in Carnegie's room, installed after his family threatened Haley with a medical malpractice suit, was removed last week. The family first demanded it be taken down six weeks ago.

The camera is marketed by its manufacturer, Vonnic, as a "Smoke Detector Covert Camera."

Haley spokeswoman Carolyn Clark said it will not be used again at the hospital, though the VA has avoided calling the camera's use a mistake.

"There are currently zero cameras of this type installed, in use or in stock for use at Tampa VA," Clark said.

Carnegie's family said they noticed the odd-looking smoke detector in June when it was installed overnight while the family was away from the room.

Upon closer examination, Mike Coleman, Carnegie's son-in-law, said he spotted a camera lens. The VA later confirmed to the Times they had installed the camera. The agency said it was to monitor Carnegie's fragile health.

The family said Haley officials failed to tell them they were installing the camera. Haley's deputy director, Roy Hawkins Jr., confirmed to the Times the camera had been installed without telling Carnegie's family. Hawkins later denied making such a statement.

Hawkins also denied in an interview that the hospital recorded the video feed from the camera.

But Haley officials later confirmed the hospital was recording the video feed.

Clark said Tuesday that Hawkins did not deliberately release inaccurate information. She said he did not know the camera was capable of recording.

Carnegie's daughter, Natalie, said the family viewed the device as an unacceptable invasion of privacy. She said her family welcomed any investigation.

Of the camera's discovery by Carnegie's family, Rep. Miller said, "I can only imagine how traumatic and disturbing that must have been to them, especially when their first concern is their loved one and his health."

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

U.S. House committee investigating Haley VA's use of covert camera 07/31/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 11:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Largo commissioners raise ceiling on next year's property tax rate

    Local Government

    LARGO — The proposed budget included a recommendation for the property tax rate to remain the same, but city commissioners on Tuesday unanimously voted to increase the maximum rate in a move to give city officials more flexibility.

    City Manager Henry Schubert says the city needs to take a look at its operation.
  2. Allegiant Air reports $400 million in revenue for second quarter

    Airlines
    Allegiant Air CEO Maurice J. Gallagher Jr. | [Courtesy of Tony Jannus Aviation Society]
  3. Dade City's Wild Things touts cub encounters as conservation, but experts say they lead to too many tigers languishing in cages

    Wildlife

    DADE CITY — A lifelong animal lover, Lisa Graham was intrigued when she saw photos on social media of friends cuddling and petting baby tigers at zoos.

    A tiger named Andy is seen at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa. Big Cat Rescue is a nonprofit sanctuary committed to humane treatment of rescued animals, often coming from exploitive for-profit operations. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times

  4. Once close to death in Ukraine, sick girl finds hope in Tampa Bay

    Human Interest

    Everything was packed for Walt Disney World. Clothes for three nights. The pressurized air vest and pump that travel with her. The dress she would wear to meet Cinderella.

    Marina Khimko, 13, pauses for a moment during a walking exercise to test her prosthetic legs at a fitting appointment Dec. 7 at the Shriners Hospital for Children's Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services in Tampa.  [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]
  5. What you need to know for Thursday, July 27

    News

    href="http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2015/graphics/macros/css/base.css"> Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Marina Khimko, now 14, pauses for a moment during a walking exercise to test her prosthetic legs at a fitting appointment at the Shriners Hospitals for Children's Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services in Tampa.  [ANDRES LEIVA | Times]