By DAN MARGOLIES
Kansas News Service
The CEO of an Overland Park-based medical staffing company that provides traveling nurses for pandemic-stricken hospitals has resigned after questions arose about his support of anti-mask initiatives.
In a terse news release, Krucial Staffing said it had accepted Brian Cleary’s resignation “(i)n light of events outside our business.”
“Since this is a personnel decision, we have nothing further to say regarding this matter,” the release said.
Since it was founded two years ago, Krucial Staffing has supplied several thousand traveling nurses to hospitals in New York, Texas and Louisiana that have been overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the last month or so, Cleary’s son Jacob Cleary, 19, started an anti-masking group in Johnson County called Mask Choice 4 Kids.
It has urged schoolchildren to resist school mask mandates and has sold T-shirts and other merchandise to promote its agenda. On its Facebook page on Sept. 1, the group claimed to have 5,000 followers.
In a recent post on Mask Choice 4 Kids’ Facebook page, Brian Cleary wrote: “Hey guys, new to the group here. My 19 year old son had the idea of mask choice for kids, then a bunch of parents have run with it. Follow us on social media, we are going to be having a rally outside at the next board meeting. Monday September 13th from 5-630 pm. Got to have big numbers, we are shooting for 500-1000. Bring kids neighbors, everyone! Strength in numbers.”
Brian Cleary, who is also a registered nurse, could not be reached for comment.
Jacob Cleary is a student at the University of Colorado in Denver. He resigned from Mask Choice 4 Kids a few days ago, saying in a Facebook post that he “could have never expected or could have predicted its growth.”
He said he was handing the reins to Tana Goertz, who appeared on Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” TV show and whose LinkedIn profile describes her as a “Personal friend of President Trump.”
Neither Jacob Cleary nor Goertz could be reached for comment.
Court observers have suggested that Brian Cleary, along with his middle-school daughter, are the parties who filed a recent lawsuit against the Johnson County Board of Commissioners challenging its order requiring universal masking in all of the county's grade schools. The parties are identified in the lawsuit only by their initials, B.C. and M.M.C.
Ryan Kriegshauser, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, declined to confirm their identities, saying he was not authorized to disclose his clients’ names.
Although Krucial Staffing did not specify the reason for Cleary’s resignation as CEO, its news release suggests he was pushed out.
“Obviously being in the healthcare staffing business, we understand the importance of masks in hospitals and any medical setting,” the release stated. “As a company we work to ensure that all our healthcare personnel have the best protective equipment to keep them safe in their working environment.”
Krucial Staffing’s main shareholders include Kompass Kapital Holdings LLC, a private equity group in Overland Park, and one of Kompass’ principals, Bradley Berger. The phone lines at Kompass were tied up throughout Friday afternoon and neither Kompass nor Berger could be reached for comment.
Cleary and Krucial Staffing were sued last year in New York by three nurses who alleged that Krucial Staffing dispatched them to New York hospitals for jobs they weren’t trained for and for which they were not provided adequate personal protective equipment. Four additional nurses later joined the lawsuit, which is pending.
In a February deposition, the nurses’ attorney, Gregory Antollino, asked Cleary whether he believed people should be double masking.
“My personal opinion is, the more protection the better,” Cleary said. “Anything we can do as a country or community to stop the spread is a really good idea.”
Krucial Staffing deployed hundreds of nurses and nurse practitioners to New York last year when the state was at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Krucial Staffing promised them as much as $10,000 a week or more.
Cleary has been in the staffing business for more than 20 years. Until helping to launch Krucial Staffing in 2019, he was an executive with Favorite Healthcare Staffing, which lists its headquarters in the same office complex in Overland Park as Krucial Staffing. It’s unclear if and how the two companies are related. Favorite Healthcare Staffing’s president, Christopher Brink, did not return a phone call.
Krucial Staffing bills itself as a large volume staffing provider mainly for emergencies and disasters. Cleary, who worked in San Antonio, Texas, when he was employed at Favorite Healthcare Staffing, relocated to Overland Park in 2019 to launch Krucial Staffing.
It’s not clear what role he played in his son’s group, Mask Choice 4 Kids, which appears to have been founded in August. A Facebook posting by the group on Aug. 23 said its kickoff party the previous Sunday had drawn nearly 500 attendees “and everyone was passionate and committed to support the movement in giving our children the right to choose.”
Dan Margolies is senior reporter and editor at KCUR. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @DanMargolies.