Cobb’s chief medical examiner to step down
by Hilary Butschek
July 27, 2014 04:00 AM | 4168 views | 6 6 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Brian Frist
Brian Frist
MARIETTA — Cobb’s chief medical examiner resigned Friday, four months after an audit critical of his office caused a public uproar.

Brian Frist sent a short letter to County Commissioner Tim Lee and County Manager David Hankerson on Friday to announce he would leave the position in September.

“I will be retiring as of September 30, 2014. As a result, I resign my position as Chief Medical Examiner on September 30th 2014,” Frist wrote in his resignation.

Robert Quigley, a spokesman for the county, said he could not comment on the event.

“It is the county’s practice to not discuss personnel matters,” he said.

County commissioners were supportive of Frist and his department during the presentation of a report written by the county’s internal audit department that pointed out 27 recommended changes to the medical examiner’s office in April.

But one man’s bad experience with the office, which spurred the audit, has since spiraled into a negative reaction from the public to questions the audit raised about Frist’s $475,500 contract and possible abuse of county facilities.

The audit was triggered by a complaint from Tom Cheek, who was upset about the way the office handled the death of his son, who died in a 2012 fire.

Frist has been the county medical examiner since 1999, and was an associate medical examiner for 10 years before that.

Cobb is one of only five counties in Georgia that has a medical examiners in place of a coroner, according to a presentation given to the Cobb commissioners in April by Latona Thomas, who heads the county’s audit department.

The tasks of each position are similar, but a coroner is an elected official who must live in the county and is not required to be a physician because they do not perform forensic pathological services.

A medical examiner is an appointed position and is required to be a physician, but does not have to live in the county.

Frist’s contract is worth $475,500 a year, which he splits with three part-time employees. When asked, he said he did not know how much goes to him directly as salary. The contract at one time included salary for other staff members, but those are now paid by the county.

Frist also performs autopsies independently, which he profits from. He is allowed free use of county facilities and also uses county employees who are off the clock. The use of employees and facilities was not monitored by Frist, according to the audit.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
July 30, 2014
The Board if Commissioners was going to keep Dr. Frist in position, despite what was found. Tim Lee backed him up on multiple occasions.

The only reason the County will have improved services is due to the "persistent criticism" of a private citizen as described by Ross Cavitt of WSB. We are very sorry for your loss, Mr. Cheek, but thank you for pointing out what the County should have already known , and thank you for your persistence in making it better.
Charlotte Clark
July 29, 2014
This is the first step of many that will be needed to bring this office up to date. Please keep this office in mind when you think about public safety. It needs to be funded, supervised and prioritized.
July 28, 2014
So he gave his resignation to the County Manager, that makes it appear that person was responsible for oversight. They are the ones that need to be investigated. If they manage like this, why do they keep them around
Just Wait
July 27, 2014
There is certainly something wrong with allowing Dr. Frist to use the county facility for his personal side business. That would be like allowing a county dump truck driver to deliver dirt on weekends with the county's truck.
July 28, 2014
True. And for that business, he had no business license according to the audit. And he did not report income of his associates, calling it "reciprocal services" in the audit. I don't remember seeing that line in my 1040.

The strangest part is that he resigned after the board decided to keep him in in spite of all this. Very odd.
July 27, 2014
The free use of county employees was not monitored? For 15 years? A half a million a year from the county, and free staff and facilities for his private business.

It looks like this office exists for the sole purpose of lining his pockets. Are there other departments that are run this way?

There is a pattern developing. People find something wrong. Tim Lee says everything is okay. Nothing to see here. Move along. Then he has to backtrack after the "negative public reaction". Very similar to the SPLOST list. Similar to the Public Safety Director resigning. Now this. Lee took up for this guy. He actually took the blame for the problems. Birrell took up for him. There is more to this story.
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