Centennial optometrist admits to decades of sexual misconduct

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CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- A longtime optometrist admitted to investigators he had sexual relations with at least 10 former or current patients and dated four staffers since 1985, the FOX31 Denver Problem Solvers learned.

The revelations came in a court document released this week by the Colorado Optometry Board, which is asking Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman to revoke the license of Dr. Paul Conkling.

Conkling was chairman of the Colorado Optometry Board until he was forced to resign from the board in February after fellow board members issued an emergency suspension of his license related to a patient complaint filed on Dec. 24.

Conkling initially denied the accusation, but when two more anonymous complaints were filed with the state -- one in February and one in March -- investigators dug deeper and learned he tried to get the first accuser to drop her complaint with the board.

According to court documents on March 9, Conkling admitted his method of operation was “to pick out unhappy, adult female patients whom he had worked with for a long time and engage in sexualized conversations prior to starting to try to engage in romantic or sexual contact with these patients.”

He added he had been engaging in these acts since 1985 and that his wife was a former patient.

Conkling’s accusers wouldn’t speak on camera, but by email, one said Conkling would joke about sex during private eye exams, place his hand on the patient’s leg and ask for oral sex.

When the Problem Solvers confronted Conkling in his driveway he admitted, “I made mistakes and I’m paying for them.”  When asked if he wanted to apologize to his accusers, Conkling responded, “I would like to do that at the appropriate time.”

The Colorado Optometry Board has forwarded the investigation to the Attorney General's Office, which could have Conkling’s license permanently revoked, according to Cory Everett, chief of staff for the Department of Regulatory Agencies.

“The board takes very seriously any conduct that places the consumer at risk,” Everett said. "Because this is an ongoing matter, I can’t discuss any of the details related to the case, however, I can tell you the board took immediate action to remove Dr. Conkling from practice.”

A letter shared with patients at his Family Eye Clinic optometry practice at 6881 S. Yosemite St. in Centennial said Conkling has decided to retire after 33 years.

When the Problem Solvers asked why he retired, the reason given was for “medical reasons.” But moments after mentioning his license had been suspended, his nameplate was removed from the lobby’s entrance.

Conkling confirmed he never plans to practice optometry again.

"I just want to get on with my life, rebuild my family life and I want to do it quietly," he said.

He also said he wanted the women who filed the complaints to know, “I meant no harm.”

To file a complaint against a doctor, do so with DORA online.

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