OFFICE OF CEMETERY OVERSIGHT
ADVISORY COUNCIL ON CEMETERY OPERATIONS
DATE: June 23, 2011
TIME: 10:10 AM – 1:10 PM
PLACE: Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, 500 N. Calvert
Street, 2nd Floor Conference Room, Baltimore, Maryland 21202
CALL TO ORDER
Chairman Goodman called the meeting to order at 10:10 a.m.
David Goodman, Chair
F. Thomas Claxton
Benjamin Foster, Director
Patricia Tress, Investigator
Leila Whitley, Administrative Aide
Paulette Wirsching, Assistant Attorney General
David Fowler, Chief Medical Examiner, State of Maryland
Michael Bender, Department of Legislative Services
Lindsay Eastwood, Department of Legislative Services
Carolyn Jacobi, MBNA and Eternal Justice
John Stierhoff, Venable LLP
Dawn Waskey, Ardent Cremation Inc.
Jay Cherry made a motion to accept the April minutes and Tom Claxton
seconded the motion.
The minutes were unanimously approved with corrections.
Chair Goodman reviewed today’s agenda and announced that we were
fortunate to have with us a guest speaker, Dr. David Fowler, M.D., Chief
Medical Examiner for the State of Maryland.
David Zinner reported on the very successful 9th North American Chevra
Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference held in Chicago from June 12th to
the 14th. David shared that Richard Fishman, New York State Cemetery
Regulator was in attendance and spoke at many of the workshops and
Chair Goodman announced that he is in discussion with staff at the Maryland
Ethics Commission and is hoping to have someone from that office attend the
July or September Advisory Council meeting to help address some of the
recent ethics related questions that have come up in our recent meetings.
DAVID R. FOWLER, M.D., Chief Medical Examiner/State of
Dr. Fowler shared that Maryland was the first state in nation to establish a
medical examiner system. The system was created in 1939 and is quite
different from the traditional Coroner system practiced in most states. It is
led by a five member Post Mortem Commission made up of the Chair of
Pathology at Johns Hopkins University, the Chair of Pathology at the
University of Maryland, the Superintendent of the State Police, the
Commissioner of Health for Baltimore City and the Secretary of Health of
Maryland. The Commission provides direction to the Medical Examiner and is
responsible for all policy and hiring decisions. Dr. Fowler first arrived in
Baltimore in 1993 and went on to become the Chief Medical Examiner in
2001. He described the system as being quite stable and that he is only the
4th Medical Examiner to serve since 1939.
The Medical Examiner’s office recently opened a brand new facility called the
Forensic Medical Center which is located at 900 West Baltimore Street. The
Center houses state of the art autopsy technology including a CT scanner
used in helping diagnosis.
The office includes a network of 120 investigators located throughout the
state, organized by county, who are on call seven days per week /twenty-
four hours per day. The investigators, many of which are EMT’s, are the
office’s representatives at the scene of a death investigation. In the 23
counties many of the investigators work on a part time basis. The City of
Baltimore uses full time investigators. The Office receives over 10,000
referrals each year and accepts around 8,000 cases. Of that number over
4,000 autopsies were performed.
If there is a private physician for the deceased individual, and there is a
medical problem that may have caused the death, the medical examiners
office may not get involved in the case. The involved physician can assume
responsibility for signing the death certificate. The Medical Examiner’s office
does become involved when death is due to violence, suicide, death by
casualty, any suspicious death, sudden or unattended death and death while
Dr. Fowler gave an overview of the death investigation process and spoke
about the relationship between the Office and the police. The police secure
and control the scene where a death has occurred. The investigator takes
jurisdiction over the body, documents the scene, collects evidence on the
body, obtains medical history and determines the need for autopsy with the
Dr. Fowler shared that his office will be meeting with The Department of Vital
Records within the next two weeks to discuss the possibility of on line
issuance of death certificates. There was some discussion about the impact
of delayed death care certificates on the timely issuance of burial transit
permits and the potential problems that ensue for consumers and cemetery
operations. There is hope that such a system could be implemented over the
next eighteen to twenty months. Dr. Fowler fielded questions from members
of the Advisory Council and spoke about the interface between his office and
cemetery operations. He spoke about the rare occasion where a body has to
be disinterred to resolve a question about cause of death as an example.
Chair Goodman expressed thanks and appreciation on behalf of the Advisory
Council to Dr. Fowler for his excellent and informative presentation and for
taking time from his hectic schedule to meet with the Council.
SUNSET REVIEW PROCESS
Michael Bender and Lindsay Eastwood, auditors from the Department of
Legislative Services, introduced themselves and gave a brief overview of
their mission to complete a Sunset Review evaluation of the OCO. They plan
to meet with the Office of Cemetery Oversight staff over the next several
months and hope to complete their study by sometime around October. In
addition, they are planning to interview members of the Advisory Council as
part of the evaluation.
OTHER COUNCIL BUSINESS
Chair Goodman distributed a handout, “Deaths by Disposition,” showing
statistics on cremation over a period of ten years from 1999 to 2009. The
raw data for this chart was obtained from the Office of Vital Records.
Information for 2010 will be available sometime around late August. The
chart shows that approximately one third of consumers are currently
choosing cremation over traditional burial. There has been a steady increase
over the past ten years consistent with the information provided by Deputy
Commissioner, Harry Loleas in the last Advisory Council meeting.
Mr. Foster stated there is an open hearing is scheduled for tomorrow at the
Board of Morticians meeting to discuss the ‘draft suggestions’ for cremation.
The meeting will be held at 10:00AM at the Board of Mortician’s Office
located on Patterson Avenue. Mr. Foster and Ms. Wirsching are scheduled to
meet with the Morticians’ Board on July 5, 2011 to work on the regulations
Ms. Wirsching stated the regulations for crematories would be reviewed a
little more in depth at the July 5, 2011 meeting. Financial Stability
requirements remain as an area of contention. The statute requires that
regulations for each office mirror each other, but this has posed some
challenges given the operational and structural differences between the two
REVIEW OF MAJOR CASE
Ms. Wirsching discussed a case involving Southern Memorial Gardens. The
former owner, Larry Deffenbaugh had criminal charges filed against him. He
and his daughter, Stacey Campbell, sold the cemetery in March 2006 to
Daniel Martin and George Martin. The Martins had a valid cemetery permit
with the Office of Cemetery Oversight until June 2009 when the cemetery
failed to file a timely application for renewal. The application for permit
subsequently filed by the cemetery was denied by the Office for several
reasons including the cemetery’s inability to meet requirements regarding its
financial stability. This has been an ongoing case for the last two years. If
the Martins wish to have a burial take place, they must file a Petition with the
Circuit Court for Calvert County and obtain an Order from the Court
permitting the burial. There have been some burials that took place while
the cemetery lacked the required permit and without obtaining the
permission of the Court. As a result, criminal charges have been filed against
the responsible party for the cemetery for engaging in the operation of a
cemetery without a permit. M & T Bank, which holds a mortgage in excess of
$1 million on the cemetery property, has started foreclosure proceedings.
Mr. Foster distributed a handout in reference to the Cemetery Inventory
(online information). Ms. Tress and Ms. Wirsching compiled most of the
information for the Inventory.
Mr. Porter raised a question concerning Bench Right Fees. Chair Goodman
stated the Bench Right Fee discussion would take place at a later date.
Ms. Tress stated she attended the CANA cremation operators training in
Philadelphia, PA. There were approximately 40 people in attendance. The
documentation provided explained the mechanics of cremation. The ethical
aspect of cremation was discussed at length.
Chair Goodman announced the next meeting would be July 28, 2011.
If there are any comments on the cremation regulations please e-mail Ms.
A motion to adjourn the meeting made by Mr. Porter and seconded by Mr.
Claxton. The meeting adjourned at 1:00 p.m.