A former spa worker is suing a Mount Pleasant medical facility over an alleged spy camera she found in a room where she and patients were nude and intimate procedures were performed, according to court documents.
Belina Cannon, an aesthetician who performed laser body hair removal and other services, filed the lawsuit in August against her former employer, Dr. Cynthia Blalock and the Blalock Family and Urgent Care Practice on Ben Sawyer Boulevard, also home to Old Village Medi-Spa.
Her suit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges negligence, invasion of privacy and other causes of action.
Cannon, 32, alleges that on July 16 she discovered a concealed surveillance camera above the interior door frame in the room where she worked. The camera was pointed in the direction of her service area, a place where patients undressed before treatment and engaged in “very private discussions with her,” the lawsuit stated. She had disrobed in the room as well to change clothes, the suit said.
In her formal response to Cannon’s civil lawsuit, Blalock has denied any wrongdoing. Her attorney, Mark McKnight, said Tuesday the case revolves around an employment dispute. “That’s all it is,” he said.
Cannon reported the surveillance camera to Mount Pleasant police on July 18, and investigators visited Blalock the same day. She told them the camera was one of four installed in the facility “because she has had a large employee theft problem,” according to an incident report.
When asked what was being stolen, she clarified that “she was having an issue with her employees misbehaving,” the report stated.
Police consulted with the 9th Circuit Solicitor’s Office about the case, but prosecutors said it would difficult to prove a crime had occurred, given Blalock’s assertion that the cameras were in place to monitor employees. The police investigation is now closed, Inspector Chris Helms said.
Police also noted that the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation planned to look into the matter and would likely hold a hearing on the complaint.
Agency spokeswoman Lesia Kuldelka said state law bars the Board of Medical Examiners from acknowledging whether a licensee is being investigated, and only final disciplinary actions are made public. The agency’s website indicates that Blalock has no disciplinary action on her record and is in good standing with the state Board of Medical Examiners.
Cannon, who had worked for Blalock since August 2012, left her job after discovering the camera. Neither she nor her attorney, Nathan Hughey, responded to calls for comment.
Cannon stated in her suit that she was assigned to the room where the camera was located, but McKnight said she chose that space from two rooms she was offered. The room she chose had previously been used for storage, and the camera had been installed several years ago to protect against “pilferage” of medicine and other goods, McKnight said.
“Those cameras had nothing to do with Ms. Cannon,” he said, adding that Blalock “had not even looked at the thing in years.”
Blalock told police she had installed the camera and others in her office, the nurse’s station and the lobby about a year and a half ago, an incident report stated. The camera in Cannon’s room looked like an alarm motion sensor and was not readily recognizable as a camera, police said.
“She referenced employees not working, using Facebook, being rude to customers, etc.,” the report stated. “Blalock said she is the only person who reviews the footage.”
Blalock told police she had reviewed about five hours of footage the night before their visit and saw evidence of employee theft, the report stated. But when asked whether she had seen anyone nude on the tape, she told officers she had not reviewed the footage, the report stated.
“I told Dr. Blalock that I believed she just mentioned reviewing five hours of footage,” Officer Dianna Lapp wrote in her report. “Dr. Blalock corrected herself and said she did not review video footage, but was reviewing business records. Detective Ivey and I were under the same impression that Dr. Blalock initially stated she reviewed five hours of surveillance footage, not transaction records.”
Blalock acknowledged that neither patients nor employees had been made aware of the camera in Cannon’s room, but she told police there was no reason for anyone to be naked there, the report stated.
She told officers that patients should be getting dressed in a bathroom, but officers noted that Cannon’s room had changing gowns on hand and no attached bathroom. The closest lavatory was at the opposite end of the hall near Blalock’s office, the report stated.
“It does not make sense that the clients would be expected to change in the bathroom and walk through the hallway in a massage garment where other patients could see them,” Lapp wrote in her report. “Additionally, the clients would also have to pass the door that opens into the lobby.”
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.