Autopsies in Wonderland

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Posted December 16, 2009 by Static in News

Tarrant County Auditor Renee Tidwell recently released the results of an audit of the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office, and while no skeletons were rattled, the auditor did find areas where Dr. Nizam Peerwani needs to clean up his act. For instance, she found that the county’s contract with Peerwani “allows for potential conflict of interest.” That doesn’t surprise Static, because the county doesn’t actually employ Peerwani. Rather, it employs his professional association, which in turn employs the M.E. The potential conflict arises because his contract also allows Peerwani to engage in private practice under certain conditions. Obviously there’s a potential conflict if the M.E. were to give priority to private autopsies over his county work.

Tidwell also noted that “management oversight over certain financial functions should be improved” and listed two cases where Peerwani’s employees were paid thousands more dollars than they should have been for mileage expenses. It was an oversight, and the money is being repaid. But what Tidwell failed to note is that Peerwani is “management,” with the M.E.’s business manager reporting to Peerwani, not to any county authority. Peerwani noted as much in his response.

The audit also took issue with the billing process for work Peerwani’s firm does for entities outside its four-county jurisdiction – for which the professional association and the county share the profits. Tidwell noted that those receipts were not always deposited in a timely manner and that until recently the books were accessible to several people in the M.E.’s office, all of whom had the power to alter entries.

There was no hint that Peerwani or his private staff have done anything wrong, just that the setup continually leaves the county vulnerable to possible “fraud and errors [that] may not be detected.”

Again, no news there. Static is still amazed that Peerwani’s contract with Tarrant and the other three in-jurisdiction counties calls for his private firm to receive a lump sum of about $1 million per year, which he distributes to his employees as he sees fit, with no county input. Since when is a private firm allowed to hold a county post and run a fiefdom that operates without county supervision?

Christmas in Smokytown

You can keep your tinsel and angels. Static has found its favorite new Christmas ornament – although we’ll have to go to Austin to see it. How much better can you get than a bauble hand-painted by a local spoken-word artist, inspired by a local do-gooder?

Tammy Gomez said, by e-mail, that when State Rep. Lon Burnam asked her to decorate a glass bulb for the holiday tree at the Texas Capitol to represent his district, she mulled it over for several weeks. What to depict? Longhorns? Our museums? The old county courthouse? A purple horned frog?

Nah. Smog. Specifically, gas drilling air pollution. Doesn’t that just say Christmas? It does if you live here and watch the skies – because then it reminds you of that favorite request of local air breathers: “All I want for Christmas is two good lungs.”

Actually, that last part is Static’s invention. The marbleized ornament that Gomez “painted … with the colors of smoke” carries her own wish/poem:

“sleeping panther rise

remove the smokescreen from our eyes

no more gas drill lies”

And she said she was inspired by artists and activists Don and Deborah Young.

When Exxon gets XTO for Christmas, the rest of us should get something. Y’all have a nice holiday, hear?


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