May 8—The state's chief medical examiner has told the governor's office he doesn't want to be reappointed to the post when his term expires next month.
Gov. Janet Mills' office confirmed Dr. Mark Flomenbaum's decision Friday, after also verifying that the governor had issued a formal, but confidential, reprimand of the doctor a year ago for his office's "inappropriate gift" to a departing employee, and also for Flomenbaum's questioning of an employee's sick leave and medical leave that had already been approved.
In her letter, Mills ordered Flomenbaum to take "refresher training" on the state's policy statement against harassment and warned that further substantiated inappropriate conduct of that type could result in additional discipline.
Attempts to reach Flomenbaum on Friday were unsuccessful.
He was appointed to the position in August 2014 by then-Gov. Paul LePage, who acted on the recommendation of Mills, who was attorney general at the time. Flomenbaum had been deputy chief medical examiner in Maine for about five months when his predecessor as chief medical examiner retired in June 2014.
Flomenbaum's tenure has been marked by controversy. In 2016, a Connecticut prosecutor wrote then-attorney general Mills, notifying her that a judge had determined that Flomenbaum's testimony in a child manslaughter case in that state was ruled "not credible" by a judge. Flomenbaum had been hired as an outside consultant in the case.
In Maine, Flomenbaum's testimony resulted in a mistrial in a murder case in 2019, when he said on the stand that his opinion on a key piece of evidence had changed. The defendant was eventually convicted in a retrial.
And two years ago, current Attorney General Aaron Frey investigated Flomenbaum and his 12-person office over criticism of Flomenbaum's side business as a consultant in out-of-state death cases.
The investigation cleared Flomenbaum of allegations that he was operating the business on state time, although the attorney general did criticize a 2017 job posting from the office that said many Maine bodies are "lost at sea or wind up in either New Hampshire or Canada." Frey said that attempt at humor failed to convey the "high standards and professionalism and dignity" that the public is entitled to expect of state officials.
But Frey said he didn't find any evidence that Flomenbaum was operating the consultancy on state time.
Flomenbaum built a national reputation as a top medical examiner for his work helping to lead the identification of bodies from the World Trade Center attack in New York in 2001. Four years later, he was appointed to run Massachusetts' medical examiner's office, but he was fired two years later after his office lost a body and critics said the office had developed a backlog of bodies waiting to be examined.
Flomenbaum filed a wrongful termination suit against Massachusetts, but lost after a court ruled there was sufficient evidence of problems in the office to warrant the firing.
He was tapped in 2014 to lead the Maine Medical Examiner's Office. The office is charged with helping to investigate sudden, unexpected and violent deaths.
The allegations of "inappropriate and unprofessional behavior, including behavior that may have been sexual in nature, in the workplace" were lodged against Flomenbaum in January 2020, Mills' letter said. After an investigation that lasted nearly five months, Mills sent an official reprimand to Flomenbaum, saying that the inquiry had found enough evidence to conclude that Flomenbaum allowed his office to give "an inappropriate gift to a departing employee during a farewell luncheon" and "questioned an employee's approved use of medical and sick leave."
The letter from Mills also said that investigators had looked into other allegations against Flomenbaum but failed to substantiate any of them.
The letter did not provide any details about the "inappropriate gift," didn't provide more information on Flomenbaum's questioning of the employee's leave or state what additional allegations had been made, but part of the letter viewed by the Portland Press Herald had been redacted.
Frey's office had no comment Friday on Flomenbaum's decision. His office declined to comment on Frey's timetable for finding a successor to recommend to Mills and whether Flomenbaum would stay on until a new chief medical examiner is named.
State Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, I-Friendship, a leading legislative critic of Flomenbaum, said he will push Frey for transparency in the search for a successor. He said the state's medical examiner's office needs to be reformed and he urged Mills to use Flomenbaum's departure to "clean house" in the office.
Flomenbaum is one of the highest-paid state employees with an annual salary of more than $260,000 a year in 2018, according to his personnel file. That means he is paid nearly four times as much as the governor.