Parallax CEO retires amid investigation

The founder and CEO of a Wichita substance abuse treatment program that has recently come under state investigation has retired, an official said Wednesday.

The board of Parallax Program Inc. accepted Milt Fowler's retirement Tuesday, said board president Danny Bardezbain.

Bardezbain read this statement to The Eagle over the telephone Wednesday:

"Yesterday, Oct. 12, Milt Fowler informed the board of directors of his intent to retire as CEO of Parallax programs, effective immediately. The board accepted his retirement and wished him all the best."

Bardezbain, the current Eastborough police chief and a former sheriff's major with the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office, said he couldn't comment further because of an ongoing investigation by the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

Fowler, 65, who has headed Parallax for nearly 40 years, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. He has not responded to messages seeking comment about allegations of sexual and financial improprieties at Parallax, a nonprofit substance abuse treatment program that receives city, state and federal funding. The program offers a variety of treatments, including inpatient, outpatient and detoxification services.

The Eagle has interviewed several former Parallax staff or clients who say they told state investigators that they found an atmosphere of sexual harassment or abuse in Parallax programs over the past five years. Since August, the women said, they have submitted written statements detailing their allegations to SRS or the Parallax board.

Some of the women accused Fowler of touching them inappropriately or sending them sexually graphic text messages.

Also among their written complaints given to the board and investigators were allegations of fraudulent billing or overbilling for patient care and allegations that counseling positions were filled by people not trained or fit for the role — among them a registered sex offender.

Meanwhile, when asked about the allegations Wednesday, Kansas attorney general's spokesman Gavin Young said the office had "no official investigation" of the allegations. Young said he couldn't comment further.

SRS spokesman Steve Mock has confirmed that SRS recently launched an on-site investigation of Parallax that "is definitely not routine" but declined to elaborate.

On Monday, Mark Masterson, director of the Sedgwick County Department of Corrections, said that the department had stopped referring probationers to Parallax because of the allegations.

According to financial documents, Fowler's compensation as president and CEO was $72,675 in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009.