Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Ex-Santana Employee Sues Over Firing

October 11, 2005

Ex-Santana Employee Sues Over Firing

* Aide to the musician and his wife says they dismissed him for spiritual shortcomings. He also alleges age and gender discrimination.

By Donna Horowitz, Special to The Times

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. - A former employee of Carlos Santana is suing the Grammy-winning musician and his wife, alleging that the couple fired him because he wasn't spiritual enough.

The unusual legal battle is playing out in Marin County Superior Court, where the Santanas lost the first round to keep the dispute out of the public realm.

Bruce Kuhlman, a former personal assistant to Santana for 16 years, alleges wrongful termination and age, gender and religious discrimination, as well as failure to pay contractual licensing commissions and overtime.

Carlos and Deborah Santana suffered a setback in the case in August when Judge John Sutro turned down their request to send the dispute to arbitration. A status conference, originally scheduled for Monday, was postponed until January.

The Santanas are appealing Sutro's decision.

Kuhlman's lawsuit says Deborah Santana directed him to meet with a "Dr. Dan" to improve "his consciousness or awareness level, which would bring him closer to God and make him a better worker."

Kuhlman, 59, of Mill Valley, alleges that he was fired last year shortly after he missed his third appointment with "Dr. Dan." Although Dr. Dan's last name was omitted from the suit, Kuhlman's attorney, Stephen Duggan, identified him as Dan Schlenger, a Capitola chiropractor who has declined comment.

Kuhlman further alleges that the couple fired him to avoid paying him up to $250,000, his commission on licensing fees last year for the Santanas' Rivers of Colors division of Guts and Grace Records.

Kulhman is seeking more than $100,000 in damages, $175,500 in overtime pay, fees for licensing work from 2002 to 2004 and unspecified punitive damages.

Neither the Santanas nor their attorney responded directly to questions about the lawsuit. The couple issued a statement through a representative denying all allegations.

"Bruce was placed in a position of responsibility but was unable to perform his job at the level required. He was given support and every opportunity to succeed. Bruce was treated fairly and terminated only after it was clear that he could not perform the job he was given," the statement said in part.

The Santanas further contend that "Bruce's attorney has created fantasies to divert attention from Bruce's inadequate job performance, which is why he was fired."

Duggan countered that if Kuhlman "was doing an unsatisfactory job, how do you explain the big jump in income from licensing he was responsible for?"

Kuhlman's share of licensing activities brought him just $13,000 in mid-2002, according to the suit.

The Santanas also posted a note to fans on their website Aug. 22 denying the allegations. "We are grateful and inspired by the many words of encouragement we have received and ask everyone to believe that Truth will prevail. To work towards world peace, we must have peace in our hearts," an excerpt read.

In Kuhlman's initial visit to him, the suit says, Dr. Dan calibrated Kuhlman's "enlightenment/consciousness level" and found it to be "low," but said it could be raised with treatment.

Dr. Dan also gave Kuhlman information on his "neuro-emotional" and "neuro-calibration" techniques, the suit says. The literature explains that the latter technique is intended "to help you become as enlightened as God desires you to become," the suit adds.

At their second session, Dr. Dan directed Kuhlman to place his right hand on his chest and hold out his left arm, the suit says. While Kuhlman repeated several times, "I'm ready, willing and able to communicate verbally with Deborah," Dr. Dan pushed down on Kuhlman's arm, the suit says.

The procedure, known in chiropractic circles as muscle testing, was intended to determine Kuhlman's level of resistance, Duggan said.

Kuhlman missed his third appointment. The next week, in April 2004, he was fired after receiving a letter saying Santana wasn't happy with his management efforts, the suit says.

Schlenger, the chiropractor, said in an e-mail that he could not comment on any particular patient he may have seen. He also declined to respond to questions about his therapies.

Dr. Daniel Monti, director of integrative medicine at Jefferson University Hospital and assistant psychiatry professor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, said a peer-reviewed, controlled study in 1999 validated neuro-emotional technique.

Monti, who also leads advanced seminars for the technique's creator, Scott Walker, an Encinitas chiropractor, said the method he teaches has no spiritual component and doesn't assess a person's character.

The Santanas have long been spiritual seekers. Carlos Santana, in a 2000 interview with The Times, credited an angel named Metatron for helping inspire his career comeback. At that year's Grammys, he won eight awards.

In Deborah Santana's newly released memoir, "Space Between the Stars," she writes about a guru the couple once followed, Sri Chinmoy, who she says directed her to open a vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco and get an abortion.

In his suit, Kuhlman also charges that he faced gender discrimination. He said Deborah Santana preferred to work with women and, with her sister, "repeatedly put down men" and held weekly "women only" staff meetings.

Although the Santanas and Kuhlman are at odds, it wasn't always so.

While looking for new accountants and a bookkeeper in 1994, Deborah Santana notes in her book, Kuhlman "became my emotional support, helping me in every decision - he was a deep listener and a great problem-solver."


Fired Santana aide blames guru's 'test'

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