surgeon

Colleagues are coming forward with allegations about 72-year-old Dr. Ronald Bergman, who they say sexually harassed them and bragged he had ties to the Mexican Mafia.

According to the Ames Tribune, the "creepy" doctor would call women "dumb cu*ts," "f*cking morons," and "worthless" to "honey," "sweetie," and his "essential oil."

"The latest lawsuit was filed Nov. 19 by Rhonda Swanson, a former administrative assistant who says Bergman's behavior caused her to quit after working just three months in 2019," said the report.

She also alleged that Bergman showed her nude photos of the woman he was dating, who also worked in the practice. "Does she look 50?" he allegedly asked. Swanson told the doctor that the conversation wasn't appropriate for work. The lawsuit says "Dr. Bergman laughed and reiterated that, ‘My humor is not the same as others.'"

The suit also alleges that she was discriminated against because of her age (in her 50s) and appearance.

Bergman allegedly refused to allow her to participate in trainings for services that younger staff were doing. "He told her that he wanted a ‘young fresh look for his business,’ and while (Swanson) ‘wasn’t bad looking,’ she was ‘too old for the image.'"

Then came the threats. Swanson's suit says the doctor boasted he had connections with "the Mexican Mafia," and said, "those who were not loyal had things happen to them. … The 'Mexican Mafia' does not ask questions, they just kill."

Through his attorney, Dr. Bergman said that the allegations are false because he "is a skilled plastic surgeon who has contributed to this community through his professional and philanthropic efforts for over 40 years."

In another lawsuit by former practice manager Peggy West, Bergman allegedly showed her photos of his penis and his nude girlfriend, describing their sexual encounters. She also overheard him tell a young staffer, "I like your dress! I would like to bend you over an exam table."

West's lawsuit cites similar allegations to Swanson's, but noted that she witnessed a staffer file a sexual harassment suit against Bergman. He told West that the lawsuit was just because she wanted to have sex with him.

She said that after a former employee filed a sexual harassment complaint against Bergman, he laughed and said the woman just wanted to have sex with him.

West's lawsuit recalls that when she chastised Bergman's behavior he said, "don’t do anything you’d regret." In that case too, he brought up his ties to the Mexican Mafia.

After three months she quit, calling the work environment "intolerable." When she left she was contacted by the Iowa Board of Medicine saying that they were investigating Bergman. She agreed to be interviewed. Once Bergman found out that she's spoken to them, he called the Des Moines police and claimed she "engaged in forgery and theft during her employment."

West was then arrested and faced criminal charges with amounts totaling $4,366. The Polk County attorney's office dropped the charges. They're now looking at "allegations of retaliatory reporting for prosecution."

West also alleged that Polk County sheriff's detective Robyn Bartholomew worked for Bergman's office part-time, and aided in the retaliation against her.

In a third case, surgeon Dr. Suzanne Kuhnen also recalled the numerous occasions when Bergman would call women obscene names.

"Kuhnen says in her lawsuit that she moved to the Des Moines area in 2014 for a three-year plastic-surgery fellowship at MercyOne Medical Center," the Tribune said. "Her training was to be overseen by Bergman and another doctor, who was his practice partner. But her fellowship experience was marred by insults and a lack of training, the lawsuit says."

Bergman tried to interfere with her attempt to get surgical privileges at MercyOne Medical Center, the suit says, along with the main competitor UnityPoint Health. She's in a lawsuit against the company itself, but Bergman practiced for years at MercyOne.

Read the full report at the Ames Tribune.