Olens sides with nursing board in battle with Kemp

In an opinion released this week, Attorney General Sam Olens sided with the Georgia Board of Nursing that the board has the legal authority to accept or reject the new executive director pushed on them by Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

In June, Kemp told the members of the nursing board he planned to remove their current executive director and replace him with the executive director of the state cosmetology board. In response, nursing board members hauled out a state law that seemed to clearly indicate the board had authority to approve its own executive director and promptly voted to reject Kemp's decision.

Kemp's office responded that the Secretary of State controls the hiring and firing of personnel in his office. Olens said both are true.

"The board’s authority to approve the selection of its executive director is a distinct authority from the Secretary of State’s authority to appoint executive directors," the opinion states.

Plans by Secretary of State Brian Kemp (above) to replace the state nursing board director took a hit this week with an attorney general's opinion that said the board can reject the move. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Credit: Chris Joyner

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Credit: Chris Joyner

The opinion appears to be an important victory for the nursing board, whose members have said they will not accept the removal of current executive director Jim Cleghorn, who Kemp wanted to move to the cosmetology board.

The opinion appears to shut the door on Andrew Turnage, Kemp's preferred candidate, who has been serving on the nursing board this summer alongside Cleghorn.

"Since the board’s approval of its executive director is required, the board’s disapproval of a candidate precludes that candidate from serving as the board’s executive director," the opinion states.

Kemp and the nursing board have been at odds over the issue for more than two months. Kemp's spokeswoman said the office is preparing a public response to the opinion.

You can read the full opinion here.