Veterinarians try to make sense of Cuddon case

CSU seeks permanent restraining order against veterinary neurologist

April 5, 2012 (published)
By Jennifer Fiala

Photo: CSU
Apart from a post on Facebook, Dr. Paul Cuddon has not responded to allegations that he acted violently toward administrators after being fired from CSU. The veterinary neurologist now is banned from the university.
A post on Dr. Paul Cuddon’s Facebook page hints that at least some of the aggressive and potentially violent behavior he's been accused of while working at Colorado State University (CSU) might have been misinterpreted by the administrator who fired him.

Cuddon, 55, took to the social networking site yesterday in response to a news article’s report that he threatened university administrators. A veterinary neurologist and native of Australia, Cuddon worked at CSU as an associate professor in the veterinary college’s Department of Clinical Sciences. 

Posting a local news article about being banned from CSU's campus to his Facebook page, Cuddon aired some of his side of the story:  

“What is the most amusing thing of all is the supposed axe or ice pick that I was wielding was my pleximeter. I was trying to get it out of my pocket of my clinic coat so I could leave the coat behind. Go figure!!!!!!!”

(A pleximeter is a reflex hammer used to test reflexes of patients during neurology examinations.)

University administrators fired Cuddon on March 30, according to documents filed with Larimer County District Court. Thom Hadley, director of finance and strategic services in CSU's veterinary college, requested a temporary restraining order against Cuddon shortly after terminating his employment with CSU for what's characterized in court records as "previous behaviors." Listed as "protected persons" in the order are Dean Hendrickson, director of CSU's veterinary teaching hospital; Dr. Christopher Orton, cardiac surgeon and faculty member; CSU President Dr. Tony Frank; and Hadley.

In a statement to the court, Hadley wrote:

"Mr. Cuddon became aggressive and hostile, making threatening statements such as, 'You will be sorry.' He was also gesturing and moving like he was going to attack me with a medical instrument that looked like a knife or an ice pick in his hand, even in the presence of a CSUPD officer."

In his request for a restraining order, Hadley described an alleged incident where Cuddon attempted to pick up personal belongings from CSU's veterinary teaching hospital and was turned away by two campus police officers. "Mr. Cuddon suddenly became angry and said in a threatening manner, 'You will be sorry. I am going to call you both before I kill myself.'"

A university spokeswoman declined to comment on the case and asked that her identity be withheld "for safety reasons." An armed police officer is stationed at CSU's veterinary teaching hospital. Administrators sent out an email to staff, alerting them that Cuddon was not permitted to be on the premises or elsewhere on the college campus. Those who encounter Cuddon are instructed to call police.

Dr. Robin Downing, owner of Windsor Veterinary Clinic in Windsor, Colo., has had a referral relationship with CSU for 20 years. In an interview with the VIN News Service, she characterized Cuddon's removal from the university as unprecedented.

"I'm going to keep an open mind, but you have to be in pretty flagrant violation of commonsense principles to initiate this type of reaction from a university," Downing said, referring to the restraining order. "It's kind of hard to get discharged from a university. This is a highly unusual event."

Emails and phone calls to Cuddon seeking comment were not returned, but some who know the veterinarian aren't keeping their support for him quiet.

In an email to the VIN News Service, a veterinary student who's studied under Cuddon wrote: "We are all looking for an explanation for why he was fired. It's been a very strange situation indeed."

The student, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution by college administrators, said of the associate professor: "I have had nothing but positive experiences with him on clinics, and he has written letters of recommendation for me."

Without getting specific, he expressed frustration with "how the CSU officials have handled this whole mess."

Others are expressing dismay for how Cuddon's been characterized in media reports. On her Facebook page, Dr. Stephanie Kube, a boarded neurologist practicing in South Weymouth, Mass., posted a link to a news article about Cuddon. She prefaced it with a personal take on her colleague’s character.

“This 'wing nut' is the kindest person you could meet," she wrote. "He cares about people and animals ... and this story was twisted around to distort the facts.”

A hearing scheduled April 13 before Magistrate Matthew Zehe will determine whether the restraining order filed by CSU should become permanent. Cuddon's presence in the court is expected.

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