Volusia County, FL – Volusia County Council District 1 member Pat Patterson says the recent controversies at the Medical Examiner’s Office are blown out of proportion and “ginned up.”
Patterson sat down with WNDB’S Marc Bernier after the County Council voted to move forward with a contract to hire a new interim chief medical examiner, Dr. Jon Thogmartin. For earlier reporting on this story, click here.
“To me, what the really big issue is if we had not taken the action we took yesterday to bring Dr. Thogmartin on board from now until January 1, we’d be closing the morgue,” said Patterson. Dr. Thogmartin will be practicing as a private contractor and other employees will work under his license. According to Patterson, Dr. Thogmartin said that under his leadership, the office will regain the certification it lost in 2015 within a year.
In response to former Chief Medical examiner Sara Zydowicz’s claims that the conditions at the morgue were “potentially dangerous,” Patterson said that the new interim chief medical examiner interpreted Zydowicz’s comments as meaning “the current situation was dangerous to her career.” For earlier reporting on Zydowicz resignation, click here.
Patterson addressed claims of smells at the morgue and although he had not visited the office in years, he said, “I don’t know if that’s the smell of things decomposing, if that was, you know, a type of chemical being used – being smelled – I don’t have any knowledge of that.”
Patterson clarified that claims that bodies were “stacking up” were made to sound “huge.” Patterson said some room could be freed up if some item were removed from the cooler that Dr. Thogmartin says should not be there.
Patterson also responded to Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood’s claims that the issue stems from “mismanagement.”
When asked if he thinks the County Manager should go, Patterson answered “no” and “for what reason.” The issue has entangled the County Manager, James T. Dinneen, and has raised questions of whether or not anyone is willing to stand up to him. During his interview, Patterson confirmed that the Office is not run under the oversight of the Manager.
Patterson agreed that Dinneen was being head-hunted at Tuesday’s meeting and said he and other councilmembers have stood up to him in that past but that his leadership “style is a lot different than a lot of people.”