Fired associate: Chief medical examiner’s flaws are a ‘danger’

EVERETT — After nearly two years with little public hint of turmoil, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office is again facing a legal dustup.

The county was served in late April with a damage claim from Dr. Stanley Adams, who alleges he was wrongfully fired in March from his job as associate medical examiner.

Claims often are precursors to lawsuits. In paperwork filed to support the Adams’ claim, attorney Matthew Harrington with Stokes Lawrence in Seattle, alleged that his client lost his job of seven years for challenging some of the practices of Dr. Daniel Selove, the county’s chief medical examiner.

“Dr. Adams believes he was terminated as retaliation for having previously and over time articulated and reported his concerns and criticisms of Dr. Selove’s deficiencies, which are a danger to public health and safety,” the claim says.

Harrington declined comment when asked to elaborate on how Selove allegedly is putting people at risk.

County officials were just as tight-lipped, referring all questions to Jason Cummings, the chief civil deputy prosecutor.

“The claim has been received. We are reviewing it,” Cummings said.

The medical examiner’s office investigates deaths and conducts autopsies. Trained forensic pathologists such as Selove and Adams use science as they attempt to determine the cause and manner of deaths, including homicides, suicides and traumatic injuries.

Both Selove and Adams regularly have been called as witnesses to testify in criminal trials and other legal proceedings.

Word of Adams’ termination and the damage claim has been making its way through the legal community.

Selove became medical examiner in June 2015, a hire that appeared from the outside to bring an end to years of turmoil for the office’s dozen or so staff.

The former medical examiner, Dr. Norman Thiersch, resigned after his skill as a forensic scientist was undermined by an apparent inability to work well with others, particularly some of the people he supervised. That disconnect led to lawsuits the county settled for a combined $620,000.

John Lovick, who was then county executive, initially moved to reorganize the office, appointing a former police supervisor who also is a recognized forensic expert to run the operation. Lovick forged ahead with his plans, despite state law and county code that require a medical doctor head up medical examiner operations. That eventually led the County Council to reject his plan.

Lovick then hired Selove, who came to the job with years of experience as a forensic pathologist, having worked with coroners and medical examiners throughout the state. He also served as Snohomish County’s associate medical examiner from 1994 to 1998.

Selove is known for his ability to explain the mechanics of death with compassion and clarity.

Adams is well-respected, too, and his work has attracted notice, particularly during the deadly Oso mudslide. He also had a role in a controversial 2012 decision to conduct no autopsy on a Monroe boy who tests later showed had ingested a fatal dose of salicylates, a chemical common in aspirin and numerous other over-the-counter drugs. Detectives believed the death suspicious, in part because the boy’s parents had been previously investigated for mistreating the child. No charges were ever filed in the death.

Paperwork filed along with the Adams claim accuses Selove of allegedly filing reports that don’t conform with county protocol and national standards. The documents provide no details.

Scott North: 425-339-3431; Twitter: @snorthnews.

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