Pacific Daily News
AG lodges criminal complaint against Dr. Abner Pasatiempo
By Jerick Sablan
February 5, 2021
The Office of the Attorney General has lodged a criminal complaint against a former Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness psychiatrist accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with patients, according to a news release from the AG’s office.
The complaint against Dr. Abner Pasatiempo involves seven counts of official misconduct and seven counts of harassment.
The court will review the complaint to decide whether the charges are supported by probable cause.
If so, the court will issue a summons and schedule a hearing. Details surrounding the complaint will be released if the court decides there is probable cause.
Official misconduct is a misdemeanor offense and carries a jail term of up to one year and up to a $1,000 fine per count. Harassment is a petty misdemeanor offense and carries a jail term of up to 60 days and up to a $500 fine.
Pasatiempo was hired to work at Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness in 2018 despite previous troubles in the state of Maryland, where medical officials disciplined him for having sex with a female patient.
Eventually, he completed the terms of his discipline, and his privileges were restored.
The criminal complaint comes more than a year after complaints were filed with Guam Behavioral Health and the Guam Board of Medical Examiners.
Guam Behavioral Health didn’t pursue an investigation as Pasatiempo no longer worked for the agency. Six women filed complaints against the doctor in December 2019, alleging inappropriate sexual conduct with patients. He was immediately suspended, and he later allowed his Guam medical license to expire at the end of that month.
A seventh patient filed a complaint against him in January 2020.
Because he was no longer licensed on Guam, the Guam Board of Medical Examiners closed his case and said it couldn’t proceed with the investigation because it had no jurisdiction over the psychiatrist.
However, the board did report him to the National Practitioner Data Bank, a national clearinghouse of adverse actions, investigations and complaints involving health professionals. While not accessible to the general public, it “is a workforce tool that prevents practitioners from moving state to state without disclosure or discovery of previous damaging performance,” according to the data bank website.
Because he was flagged in the data bank, Pasatiempo’s job prospects were affected. Last year, he reapplied for his Guam license, because he isn’t able to work in Alaska without resolution of his case here.
With his application, the Guam Board of Medical Examiners reopened the investigation into Pasatiempo.
Pasatiempo’s attorney, Curtis Van de veld, asked the board to have a psychiatrist with a specialty in drug and alcohol treatment to review his client’s case, because it involves patients in drug treatment.
Board Chairman Dr. Nathaniel Berg told board members in their January meeting that the investigation was stalled because there were no psychiatrists on Guam who would take on the case.
Van de veld has said, in his opinion, a capable psychiatrist reviewing the complaints will see most have no merit. He said he believes one complaint has some basis for further investigation.
No advertisement, no restrictions
Although the board knew of the past problems, the board agreed there was a great need at Behavioral Health for a doctor who specialized in addiction treatment and approved his application.
Despite that need, there were no announcements or advertisements put out by Behavioral Health for Pasatiempo’s position, officials with the agency wrote in response to a request for those documents last year.
There were also no restrictions placed on Pasatiempo when he began working at Behavioral Health, despite telling the licensing board when he was hired that he had restricted his own practice.
“I had decided not to do private practice anymore, got employed in a hospital setting treating male prisoners (Forensic Psychiatry) and not to perform 1:1 psychotherapy to women in particular,” he wrote in a March 2018 email to the Guam Board of Medical Examiners. “I have learned to be vigilant of myself, recognize my countertransference to patients and learned from the dark experience I had.”
That experience, according to records from the Maryland Board of Physicians, involved a sexual relationship with a female patient.