no avatar

License of Lee County school psychologist suspended

Walter LIttrell • Apr 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM

JONESVILLE — The director of the Virginia Department of Health Professions has suspended the license of David Sabatino to practice psychology in Virginia based on evidence that his license was permanently revoked by the state of Tennessee. Upon learning of this, Sabatino resigned his position as Lee County school psychologist.

A letter from the board to Sabatino, dated April 11, gives the notice that his license has been mandatorily suspended by an order entered that same date.

“You are hereby advised that, pursuant to Section 54.1-2409.1 of the Code, any person who practices a profession or occupation after having their license or certificate to do so suspended shall be guilty of a felony. Please return your license to Evelyn Brown, executive director, at the above address, immediately upon receipt of this letter,” the letter states.

Lee County School Superintendent Fred Marion said that after learning of the suspension on Monday afternoon, he immediately discussed the letter with Sabatino, who then tendered his resignation effective immediately.

“I appreciate the work Dr. Sabatino has done for us, and I respect his decision,” Marion said.

The letter went on to inform Sabatino that he may apply for reinstatement and that he is entitled to a hearing not later than the next regular meeting of the board after the expiration of 30 days from the receipt of such reinstatement application. Reinstatement requires the affirmative vote of three-fourths of the members present of the Board of Psychology, the letter advises.

Sabatino’s employment with the Lee County school system became effective on July 1, 2007. His pupil personnel services license with the Virginia Department of Education expires June 30, 1012. He was licensed March 21, 2008, as a school psychologist, limited, through the Virginia Department of Health Professions’ Board of Psychology.

The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners permanently revoked the license of the former Johnson City psychologist for having sex with two of his female patients, attempting to solicit sex from two others, and other contacts with patients made in violation of the state’s criminal code and Psychology Practice Act.

Brown said Monday that after learning Sabatino’s Tennessee license had been revoked, her office contacted Tennessee officials to verify the revocation. Once documents to certify that revocation arrived at the agency, Director Sandra Whitley Ryals used her authority to suspend the Virginia license.

Sabatino, a resident of Elizabethton and former adjunct psychology professor at East Tennessee State University, was also assessed $16,000 in civil penalties after he failed to appear for a Nov. 3, 2004, hearing on multiple charges filed with the state’s Health Related Boards over a period of years beginning in 2000.

The board originally filed charges against Sabatino related to incidents between 1995 through 1997, and in 2000 twice amended those charges before announcing an agreement with Sabatino in 2001 in which he agreed to retire his license. The agreed order was never entered, and on Nov. 4, 2004, the Board of Medical Examiners permanently revoked Sabatino’s license and assessed him with $1,000 civil penalties for each of 16 practice act violations.

Citing evidence presented to Administrative Law Judge Todd Kelly during the Nov. 3, 2004, hearing, the board found Sabatino in violation of state laws and health licensing rules prohibiting unprofessional or unethical conduct; fraud or deceit; gross malpractice and a pattern of repeated malpractice, negligence or incompetence; sexually harassing clients by sexual solicitation, physical advances and verbal and nonverbal sexual conduct; and failure to take steps to avoid harming his patients.

Sabatino was also found guilty of multiple counts of misusing his influence as a psychologist, failing to guard against social factors that may lead to misuse of professional influence; entering personal relationships that might interfere with his practice or harm or exploit others; and with engaging in sexual intimacies with his clients.

Sabatino recently told the Times-News that he did not fight the charges from the Tennessee board because he was already planning a move to another state and denied the bulk of the charges. Sabatino contends that he merely allowed his Tennessee license to lapse by choosing not to pay to renew it when he left the state for Ohio after his mother had a stroke.

The psychologist said he did not mention ever being licensed in Tennessee when he applied for his Virginia licenses, saying he relied on his most recent employment in Georgia, and licenses in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Recommended for You

    Kingsport Times News Videos