In an interview, Albert Bannon, one of three arbitrators who decided the case, explained that Isom’s habits were not justifiable cause to be cut off from his livelihood. Isom was a business owner and a co-signer of the office leases, not an employee, Bannon says; thus Boyd and Underwood had no right to simply lock the door. Whether it was separating Isom from the staff, buying him out of his business, or giving him more time to relocate, Bannon contends, “Certainly there were other things they could do to avoid any potential sexual harassment.”

The new state regulation that prompted hygienist Enid Webb to file the misconduct charge with the state dental board was inspired by a 2007 criminal trial of an anesthesiologist who groped his sedated patients. Despite knowledge of his behavior (which netted him a prison term), several licensed dental professionals had failed to report the acts to anyone, including the board of dentistry.

Webb said in her letter that Isom’s sexual behavior made her feel “extremely uncomfortable and offended,” adding, “My feelings have compelled me to notify the dental board of this situation, so that others may not be affected.”

On May 21, in the cramped conference room at its office in Southwest Portland, the dental board’s members sat around U-shaped tables rattling off nothing more than indecipherable case numbers. In some instances, they quickly approved sanctions. In others, they issued cautionary notices. A few cases they simply dismissed. Not once did they actually name a dentist, patient, or hygienist affected by the decisions. Those who filed the cases, much less a wider public faced with choosing a dentist, would have no idea what evidence was weighed or why the board chose to discipline or dismiss.

That’s typical of many of the state health boards, where confidentiality laws require them to protect identities of professionals who may be wrongly accused of misconduct, later releasing names and sanctions only for those disciplined.

In an interview with the magazine, the board’s executive director, Patrick Braatz, said that, overwhelmed by “employee/employer disputes,” the dental board two years ago defined its powers more narrowly. “If you’re having sex with your dental assistant in your dental chair after hours, that’s not our purview,” he said. “If you’re having sex with a patient, that’s our business.”

After the Oregon Board of Dentistry declined Portland Monthly’s request to release its records on the Isom case, the magazine asked state Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, chair of the House Health Care Committee in the Oregon Legislature, to review the matter. He quickly locked horns with Braatz over the board’s inaction.

“It was not a very happy conversation,” Greenlick said. “I thought it was irresponsible for them not to investigate it further or at least make public what’s been going on. I didn’t think he was working in a way to protect the public.”