Vermont medical examiner placed on leave

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BURLINGTON — Dr. Steven Shapiro, Vermont's Chief Medical Examiner, has been placed on paid administrative leave by the state while it does an internal investigation, according to the Commissioners of Health and Human Resources.

"Dr. Shapiro unequivocally denies any wrong doing," Burlington lawyer Brooks McArthur said in a prepared statement on behalf of his client.

The complaint centers on Shapiro's apparent reaction after a bungled incident within the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, his lawyer said.

The complaint against the doctor maintains "Shapiro had created a hostile/intimidating work environment after he communicated his displeasure with other individuals working in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner after Dr. Shapiro became aware that a serious internal procedural error had occurred," McArthur said in the media statement.

"It is very important that the public understand that that this investigation and the allegations against him do not have any nexus to criminal activity nor involve any conduct of a sexual nature," the statement said.

"Dr. Shapiro will respect the investigative process and he looks forward to getting back to work," it ended.

The Chief Medical Examiner is responsible for conducting autopsies for suspicious deaths, including homicides, suicides and other untimely cases. Shapiro and his deputy, Dr. Elizabeth Bundock, average about 400 autopsies a year. It was unclear what impact Shapiro being benched would impact the office's daily work, along with police investigations, criminal trials and other proceedings.

The Human Resources investigation began after a complaint was made to the Agency of Human Services, which includes the Vermont Health Department.

Dr. Mark Levine, Vermont's heath commissioner, placed Shapiro on paid leave on Tuesday. His office issued a brief statement Friday when asked about Shapiro being on leave.

"Vermont Chief Medical Examiner Steven Shapiro is on paid leave pending a Department of Human Resources investigation that is unrelated to medical practice," the Health Department said.

Vermont Human Resources Commissioner Beth Fastiggi also confirmed on Friday morning that Shapiro was placed on leave earlier this week. She said she was unable to elaborate on the focus of the investigation by her office.

Shapiro earns about $200,000 as the Chief Medical Examiner. He is paid $92.52 an hour in his state job. It makes him the highest paid state employee - excluding employees at educational institutions, including the University of Vermont. 

Shapiro also has taught at the UVM College of Medicine.

Shapiro began as Vermont's deputy chief medical examiner on Oct. 15, 2001 and was elevated to chief medical examiner in February 2006.


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