Prominent Rancho Santa Fe psychologist faces potential license revocation

By Joe Tash

A prominent Rancho Santa Fe psychologist, who has appeared as a mental health expert on television and radio shows and written newspaper columns, faces possible revocation of his license due to alleged misconduct.

On Sept. 9, the state Attorney General’s office filed a formal accusation against Dr. Keith D. Kanner on behalf of the California Board of Psychology. The accusation alleges that Kanner engaged in a sexual relationship with the mother of a juvenile patient, and also failed to properly document his treatment of the patient.

Kanner “was grossly negligent in his care and treatment of patient S.H. and in the practice of his profession as a psychologist,” said the accusation, a nine-page document filed by the Attorney General’s office, which is available on the Board of Psychology’s website.

Through his attorney, Kanner has requested a hearing to contest the allegations, which is scheduled for October 2014. Until then, Kanner is allowed to continue to practice, said an official with the Board of Psychology, although his license expired on Oct. 31 and he had not renewed it as of Nov. 15.

Neither Kanner nor his attorney, Keith E. Zwillinger of Solana Beach, responded to emails and voice messages from this newspaper seeking comment.

The hearing to determine if Kanner can continue to practice as a psychologist in California will be overseen by a judge with the state Office of Administrative Hearings, said Gina Bayless, enforcement program coordinator with the Board of Psychology.

Due to a backlog of cases, Kanner’s hearing could not be scheduled sooner than next fall.

“It’s an unacceptably long time to be setting a hearing out,” acknowledged Bayless. “We would prefer these matters are heard more timely.”

The Office of Administrative Hearings handles hearings for a variety of state agencies, and has been affected by an increased case load and worker furloughs, Bayless said. The hearing schedule must also accommodate the schedule of attorneys on both sides.

The accusation filed against Kanner was based on a complaint received by the Board of Psychology, said Bayless. After an initial review of the allegations and the patient’s records, a sworn peace officer with the state Medical Board conducted a full investigation, including interviews with all parties, she said. The investigator’s report was reviewed by an independent expert and the Attorney General’s office before the accusation was filed.

The Board of Psychology’s accusation seeks the revocation or suspension of Kanner’s psychologist license.

The accusation filed against Kanner said that in December 2009, he began treating S.H., a minor initially diagnosed with anxiety disorder, whose parents were in the process of divorcing. In 2010, Kanner and the patient’s mother began to exchange “flirtatious text messages,” and by March of 2011, “the text messages between (Kanner) and (the patient’s mother) became sexual in nature, and contained many references to explicit sexual feelings and wishes.”

The accusation said Kanner and the patient’s mother began a sexual relationship in the early summer of 2011, which continued until February 2012. “During an interview with the Board’s investigator, respondent emphasized that his sexual relationship with (the patient’s mother) was her fault and that he had been seduced into the relationship and succumbed when (the patient’s mother) became angry,” the accusation said.

The accusation said Kanner had engaged in the sexual relationship with his patient’s mother during and immediately after the time period when he had treated the patient.

Kanner failed to maintain “appropriate boundaries” in his relationships with individuals close to his patient, and also that he had failed to make a timely report of suspected child abuse regarding the patient’s father, according to the accusation.

Kanner, who lists an office at 6037 La Granada in Rancho Santa Fe, is a licensed and board-certified clinical child, adolescent, and adult psychologist and psychoanalyst, according to his website. His psychologist license was issued in 1992, according to state records.

Kanner is a voluntary health sciences assistant professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego School of Medicine. According to his website, he teaches human development and trains medical students how to “better understand and relate to their patients.” A UC San Diego spokeswoman said the university is terminating its relationship with Kanner because his license has expired. University records do not document any volunteer work by Kanner after 2011, according to the spokeswoman.

In addition, Kanner has appeared on local and national television and radio programs: his credits include CNN, Dr. Phil, Geraldo, Fox and Friends and UT-TV. His column has also been published in the Rancho Santa Fe Review, and he has written a blog. His book, “Your Family Matters,” was published in 2011.

Kanner’s website bio said he is a father and has coached baseball, football, and soccer.