KCBD Investigates: Unanswered questions on Lubbock County Medical Examiner
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - October 1 will mark one year since Dr. Sam Andrews took over as Chief Medical Examiner for Lubbock County. In that time KCBD has reported on the massive backlog within the Lubbock County Medical Examiner’s office, as well as ongoing criminal allegations against the office and Dr. Andrews.
The contract Lubbock County Commissioners approved with National Autopsy Assay Group (NAAG) Pathology Labs renews automatically in five months, unless the commissioners act to terminate it. And recently, more concerns have been raised.
KCBD’s Investigates team has uncovered new information that could put NAAG’s contract with Lubbock County in jeopardy, including questions surrounding who employs Dr. Andrews... Lubbock County, or NAAG?
According to the medical examiner’s office organizational chart, positions highlighted in blue are funded by Lubbock County and those highlighted in orange are funded through NAAG Pathology Labs. The Chief Medical Examiner is clearly highlighted in orange, meaning Lubbock County doesn’t pay its medical examiner, NAAG does.
While the county may be indirectly paying Dr. Andrews, the money is being distributed by NAAG, owned by Dr. Evan Matshes. The problem with Dr. Andrews being paid through NAAG is that could be going against state law since Dr. Matshes is not licensed to practice medicine here in Texas.
While researching that question, another came up. Does NAAG have its required insurance? KCBD sat down with Lubbock County Judge Curtis Parrish to get some answers. “We have several contracts with third party vendors. It’s kind of the way we do business,” said Judge Parrish.
The first contract signed with Dr. Andrews appointed him Interim Chief Medical Examiner for Lubbock County on August 9 of last year. On October 1, a contract was signed with NAAG and Andrews that appointed him to the full position. “He is the acting medical examiner for Lubbock County. I’m not sure about his financial arrangement with NAAG, but he is the appointed and acting medical examiner for Lubbock County.”
According to Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, “The commissioners court shall establish and pay the salaries and compensations on the medical examiner and his staff”, but right now NAAG is the company that actually employs Andrews.
“My understanding of the arrangement is that he is the acting and appointed by medical examiner for Lubbock County appointed by the Commissioners Court. The payment arrangement and how he’s paid comes through the contract that the county commissioners set up with NAAG,” said Judge Parrish.
KCBD asked the judge if this constituted the corporate practice of medicine. “I will say I don’t have a lot of heartburn about this, but that’s probably the one area that I do have heartburn. The county does have the authority to hire medical examiners. In fact, there are several counties that hire medical examiners and it’s a prudent thing to do.”
Judge Parrish stopped short of saying Dr. Andrews would be the medical examiner after the contract expires. Although the judge did say they will have one. “With Lubbock County, we will regardless of our relationship with Dr. Andrews going forward, or whether that happens, long term or short term, Lubbock County will have a medical examiner. “
As for whether or not NAAG has insurance, county contracts with third parties regularly require the vendor indemnify the county and have liability insurance. NAAG’s contract is no exception. KCBD asked Judge Parrish if he has seen proof of NAAG’s liability coverage. “I’ve not seen it, personally, but I should. I think those are some of the questions that need to be answered and need to be asked: are they fully bonded? If they are, that’s great. If they are not, then that that’s certainly a question that needs to be answered.”
Judge Parrish said he recognized, regardless of the results of the Texas Rangers investigation, there remains a perception problem with the medical examiner that could turn into a jury problem. He says that is one of many factors commissioners will have to take into consideration when evaluating the contract with NAAG.
Texas DPS says the FBI and the Attorney General’s office is now assisting the Texas Rangers in their investigation.
As for NAAG, we reached out to their public relations team. They declined an interview, but did say they didn’t have any information regarding their insurance and said they believed Dr. Andrews is a Lubbock County employee.
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