Maine’s newest medical examiner fired from Mass. job after office lost body

Posted Jan. 11, 2013, at 7:46 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 12, 2013, at 6:20 a.m.
Dr. Mark Flomenbaum is the state's new deputy medical examiner.
Boston University's School of Medicine
Dr. Mark Flomenbaum is the state's new deputy medical examiner.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s new deputy chief medical examiner is a nationally recognized forensic pathologist heralded for his work on 9/11, but he was fired from his job as Massachusetts’ chief medical examiner in 2007 after his office lost a body.

Maine’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Margaret Greenwald, confirmed that Dr. Mark Flomenbaum would start his new job on Jan. 24, replacing Dr. Marguerite DeWitt, who left her position to teach in Texas.

“I am happy to confirm that we did hire Dr. Mark Flomenbaum as Deputy Chief Medical Examiner,” Greenwald said via email on Friday.

“We were well aware of the prior issues in Massachusetts but satisfied ourselves by checking multiple references that he was an excellent forensic pathologist who would be able to perform all the functions expected of a Deputy Chief,” added Greenwald, who declined to comment further.

Attempts to contact Flomenbaum by phone and email were not immediately successful on Friday.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick fired Flomenbaum as chief medical examiner on Aug. 1, 2007, for the misplaced body and a host of mechanical and procedural breakdowns in that office, according to a wrongful termination lawsuit against Patrick’s administration that Flomenbaum lost.

Flomenbaum argued that the deficiencies in the Massachusetts’ medical examiner’s office “were long standing and that only substantial financial, administrative, and programmatic commitments would turn the situation around,” according to the decision released by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 2008.

Gov. Mitt Romney, who appointed Flomenbaum in 2005, agreed that Flomenbaum would need at least three to five years — and a substantial increase in funding — to correct the office’s problems, Flomenbaum argued.

The court found Flomenbaum’s firing “sufficiently supported by evidence of serious problems concerning the performance of the plaintiff’s administrative and managerial duties, and by evidence of a critical lack of effective oversight, including written procedures and protocols, at the plaintiff’s office.”

The court joined Patrick’s attorneys in agreeing that Flomenbaum had established “excellent competency in the areas in which he practices and has skills.”

“In the public sector, however, collision can occur between the professional competency of the public official involved and the official’s administration of a difficult job,” the decision stated.

The Massachusetts Medical Examiner’s Office’s problems included a backlog of bodies, so many that a refrigerator truck was brought in to handle the overload, according to the court’s decision.

The missing body was a 49-year-old South Yarmouth, Mass., man. The body went missing a day after its autopsy and was later buried under a different name, officials said.

Flomenbaum was brought into the Massachusetts’ examiner’s office as a reformer. He was serving as first deputy chief medical examiner in New York City, already the nation’s busiest morgue, when the World Trade Center attack happened in 2001, according to various biographies available on the Internet.

Flomenbaum was the No. 2 leader of the unprecedented, incredibly complex and largely successful effort to identify World Trade Center victims with recovered DNA and other evidence, according to The New York Times.

”In one day,” Flomenbaum later told the Times in describing 9/11, ”I was seeing more homicides than in my 11 years in this office.”

He was the coordinator for triage and for forensic processing at the time of the terror attacks and for the American Airlines Flight 587 crash of November 2001, which killed more than 250 people, the newspaper said.

Flomenbaum lectured widely in the wake of the attacks, and has served as clinical assistant professor in forensic medicine at New York University Medical Center, co-director of the forensic pathology fellowship training program, and as a member of the forensic pathology test development and advisory committee on the American Board of Pathology.

Flomenbaum has worked as an adjunct associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine. According to a listing at the school of medicine’s website, he holds two advanced degrees from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and did a residency in pathology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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