Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey says he has completed an internal review of the chief medical examiner’s credibility and remains confident in his work despite complaints.

State Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, an independent from Friendship, filed three complaints this year about Dr. Mark Flomenbaum. In particular, he asked the Attorney General’s Office to investigate the chief medical examiner’s outside business as a private consultant.

Maine’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Mark Flomenbaum Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

A spokesman on Friday said the office has completed its review and released a letter that detailed the findings.

“Nothing in this review undermines the confidence of the Attorney General’s Office in the Chief Medical Examiner or in the quality of his work and that of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner,” Frey wrote in the letter.

Evangelos, who sits on the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, wrote in his response to the attorney general that he is “deeply disappointed.” He said Flomenbaum has damaged his own reputation, and he accused Frey of ignoring a Connecticut case in which Flomenbaum acted as an expect witness in 2016.

In that case, Flomenbaum testified that a child died of natural causes, not trauma caused by the defendant. A judge ultimately found the man guilty of manslaughter and other crimes, and she said in court that she did not find Flomenbaum’s testimony to be credible. The Connecticut prosecutor wrote a letter to now-Gov. Janet Mills to inform her of the judge’s statements about Flomenbaum and the verdict.

“If this is the person you have confidence in, then I will be asking the Judiciary Committee to compel your appearance before it to answer to the issues discussed here,” Evangelos wrote. “In short, your review lacks scope and substance.”

Flomenbaum also released a written statement, saying he appreciates the support of the Attorney General’s Office.

“I appreciate that the process is an unbiased attempt to shed light on the highly complex and often misunderstood workings of civil and governmental agencies,” his statement read. “I acknowledge the need for this process and support it wholeheartedly.

“I take very seriously my responsibilities to conduct thorough and accurate death investigations, and have always done so with utmost respect, dignity, and compassion. The results of this review inspire me to continue to lead the Office of Chief Medical Examiner on the same course that culminated in national recognition; Maine now has one of the best Medical Examiner Offices in the country. I will also continue to ensure that the people of Maine can trust our office and that we will continue to support them with accurate and timely answers during their most difficult times.”

The state Medical Examiner’s Office investigates sudden, unexpected and violent deaths in Maine and, when necessary, performs autopsies to determine the cause and manner of those deaths. The office has about a dozen staff members and investigates more than 3,000 deaths each year.

Marc Malon, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said the results of an internal review are typically treated as a confidential personnel matter. But in light of the significant public interest, Frey decided to publish the five-page letter with Flomenbaum’s consent.

The letter details the three complaints filed by Evangelos and the responses by Frey.

The first centered on Flomenbaum’s work as a private consultant. The Portland Press Herald reported in February that the chief medical examiner also runs a business called Lincoln Forensics LLC, and he answered a reporter’s call to the listed phone number during regular working hours. Evangelos said he was concerned that Flomenbaum was doing outside work while being paid by the state.

Frey wrote in his letter that Flomenbaum uses his personal cellphone as his business number, and answering the reporter’s call was incidental and did not violate state policy. Frey added that Flomenbaum often works more than 40 hours a week in his state job, including evenings and weekends.

He also said consulting work is consistent with past practice in Maine and other states. Defense attorneys benefit from this practice as well, Frey said, because they can hire medical examiners from other states as expert witnesses in their own cases.

“The OAG review found no indication that Dr. Flomenbaum has used state resources in the conduct of his consulting business or that he has done this work on state time,” Frey wrote.

The second complaint was more recent. The Bangor Daily News reported in November about an autopsy report Flomenbaum wrote in the death of a Massachusetts hiker of the Appalachian Trail. The chief medical examiner said alcoholism contributed to the man’s death, but his family and other medical experts disputed that finding in the newspaper’s report. Evangelos wrote another complaint about the case, and Flomenbaum ultimately struck that finding from his report.

Frey wrote in his letter that Flomenbaum reviewed additional information in the hiker’s case and amended the death certificate.

“It is not uncommon for medical examiners to amend reports or death certificates when new information is brought forward or further analysis is conducted,” Frey wrote. “Accordingly, this complaint has been resolved.”

The third complaint was also filed in recent weeks. Evangelos said a job posting for Flomenbaum’s office made light of its work with inappropriate phrases like Maine’s “really short season for decomposed bodies.”

“Upon review, I agree with your assessment that the language used does not convey to the public the high standards of professionalism and dignity that we should expect from state offices and state officials,” Frey wrote to Evangelos.

In an email, Malon said that job posting is no longer active even though it can still be found online, and the position has been filled. Asked whether Frey took any other action in response to that posting, Malon said he “has made his disapproval of the posting’s language clear.”

Malon said the Attorney General’s Office does not have the authority to discipline the chief medical examiner. In Maine, the governor appoints the chief medical examiner, but the office falls under the umbrella of the Attorney General’s Office.

A spokesman for Gov. Mills initially told the Portland Press Herald in February that she did not know of his outside work in her previous role as attorney general. He clarified to say Mills did not know personally know about that work, but the office’s criminal division did. He later told the Bangor Daily News that Mills knew Flomenbaum did outside consulting but did not know he had formed a business entity for that work.

The Portland Press Herald obtained a copy of Flomenbaum’s curriculum vitae through a public records request. It lists his position as “independent consultant and manager” at Lincoln Forensics LLC since 2011, two years before he was hired to be a deputy medical examiner in Maine. In 2014, he succeeded Dr. Margaret Greenwald in the office’s top post.

Flomenbaum had previously worked in New York and Massachusetts.

“The governor appreciates the Attorney General’s review and agrees with his conclusions,” Lindsay Crete, spokeswoman for Mills, wrote in an email. “She has a great deal of respect for and confidence in the Chief Medical Examiner and his office. Under his supervision, the office was reaccredited and named one of the best in the country by the National Association of Medical Examiners.”

In his own response, Evangelos discounted that accreditation, saying it as not as meaningful as the state has suggested. He shared documents from the Connecticut child abuse case and accused Frey of ignoring those details. He said his other complaints show Flomenbaum only changed the hiker’s autopsy report because of political pressure, and the chief medical examiner does not respect deceased Mainers.

“Unfortunately, in not considering the devastating findings from Connecticut, I can’t put much stock in your findings,” Evangelos wrote. “In fact, I reject them, and will ask the Judiciary Committee to ask you to appear and explain them.”

The letter from Frey briefly referenced the murder case that opened the scrutiny into Flomenbaum this year. The chief medical examiner performed an autopsy in 2016 on Alicia Gaston, who was shot and killed by her husband, Noah Gaston. On the day Flomenbaum was scheduled to testify in the subsequent trial, he told the prosecutor he needed to change a phrase in his report. Assistant Attorney General Meg Elam immediately informed the defense counsel and the judge, who halted testimony and declared a mistrial.

“Both sides in this case either missed or misapprehended evidence that bears directly on what they both agree to be a critical issue, namely where Mrs. Gaston was positioned on the stairway when she was shot and killed,” Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy said in court at the time. “To simply allow the trial to go forward given the uncertainty created by this new information would cast a shadow on the verdict reached by the jury.”

A different jury ultimately convicted Noah Gaston of murder last month. The dispute that caused the mistrial played little to no role in the case. Frey said Flomenbaum’s testimony has contributed to “many murder convictions.”

“It should be noted that in the recent State v. Gaston case, press reports suggested that Dr. Flomenbaum ‘changed’ his opinion regarding the direction of the gunshot wound,” Frey wrote in his letter. “This is a misunderstanding of Dr. Flomenbaum’s opinion and subsequent testimony. After the matter was heard at trial, the defense forensic expert agreed with Dr. Flomenbaum’s report and Dr. Flomenbaum’s trial testimony.”

Flomenbaum earns an annual salary of more than $284,000.

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