Controversy over the leadership of the Georgia nursing board re-emerged Friday with the announcement that Jim Cleghorn was out as executive director.
Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said Cleghorn was no longer a director for the Secretary of State’s office but wouldn’t say whether he was fired or resigned. He no longer works in state government, she said.
Fuchs said the move was related to an “ongoing investigation” connected to Cleghorn’s position as president of the nonprofit National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
The NCSBN is a professional organization whose board is made up of other state nursing board executives.
Fuchs said the investigation concerned the state’s ethics policy barring employees from taking money or gifts from entities that do business or seek to do business with the Secretary of State’s office.
Cleghorn, who has been the director of Georgia’s nursing board since 2010, could not immediately be reached for comment. Cleghorn is popular with the state’s nurses and credited with turning around a state board that faced criticism for backlogs in its process for issuing licenses and handling complaints against nurses.
“He’s wonderful,” said Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford. “He has been the best thing to happen to nurses in a long time.”
Unterman, who has a nursing degree and previously served as chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said she viewed Cleghorn’s leadership on the national board as a privilege for Georgia.
Cleghorn’s position at the Georgia board was the focus of a controversy in 2016 when Gov. Brian Kemp, who was then Secretary of State, announced plans to replace Cleghorn without consulting members of the board, who are citizens appointed to oversee nurse licensing. Most of the board members are nurses.
Kemp wanted to replace Cleghorn with the executive director of the state cosmetology board. Facing criticism from the board members and nurses who supported Cleghorn’s leadership, and an unfavorable legal opinion by the state attorney general, the change was never carried out.
However, conflict continued as the board sought to become independent of the Secretary of State’s office, which currently oversees most of Georgia’s professional licensing boards.
Fuchs said the “ethics” investigation is ongoing and that Friday’s action was unrelated to conflicts that played out when Kemp was Secretary of State.
“The importance of the nursing profession is paramount, especially in these trying times for our healthcare workers,” Fuchs said. “We thank Mr. Cleghorn for his years of excellent service to the board.”
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