• New questions about former top state animal doc's past


    As new questions surface about the state's former top veterinarian's past, the regulatory board which the vet until recently chaired is now tasked with investigating him.

    That doesn't sit well with Tim Goodman, who says the vet, Dr. Steven Atwood, stole tens of thousands of dollars from his elderly mother Jean, who was suffering from alcoholism and dementia.

    "Do you think this board can fairly evaluate Dr. Atwood?" FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet asked Goodman.

    "I honestly don't know," Goodman replied.

    After FOX Undercover asked the state Board of Veterinary Medicine about Goodman's complaints, the state launched an investigation and asked for Atwood's resignation.

    Atwood wasn't speaking to FOX Undercover when asked, "We had talked to Jean Goodman's son, and he says he believes you don't belong on the board," but he resigned soon after the interview attempt.

    "Come on doctor, you can't even talk to us about this?" Beaudet asked.

    Atwood took care of Jean Goodman's dogs on Martha's Vineyard starting the 1980s. During an eight-week period in 2004, she gave Atwood checks worth $56,000. On two separate occasions, she handed him two checks for $10,000 each on the very same day. Dr. Atwood says all the checks were gifts.

    "I'm sure my mom wrote one check for $10,000, which is crazy enough to begin with. And then 20 minutes later, I'm sure she didn't remember that she had done that, and she wrote another check for $10,000. And he left with one in each hand," Goodman said.

    Atwood sat on the vet board from 1994 until his resignation last month. Mark Kmetz, director of the state Division of Professional Licensure, which oversees all state boards, said he was troubled by Goodman's allegations.

    When FOX Undercover asked in April for past complaints against Atwood, the requests were stonewalled, until now.

    FOX Undercover received two of three past complaints against Atwood. One was dismissed. Another resulted in an advisory letter. The state says a third complaint accusing Atwood of incompetence was dismissed, but it could not be found.

    The most serious case that resulted in the advisory letter was from 2004 and centered on a patient whose dog died. The owner wrote "we were pressured and misled into an operation that we never wanted," saying Atwood "intentionally misled us about the expense for his own personal financial gain."

    One of Atwood's employees, who quit because of the incident, also submitted a letter on the patient's behalf, pointing out another doctor in the office said "he thought it was 'funny' that Dr. Atwood is on the Veterinary Board judging other Doctors for the same mistakes he himself makes."

    That doctor denied saying that, and the complaint was withdrawn after Atwood paid the patient $1,300.

    Until last month, Atwood sat on the vet board for nearly 20 years, even though there's supposedly a five year term limit. Two other board members were also appointed in the 1990s.

    "Are term limits a joke?" Beaudet asked Kmetz.

    "No, term limits are not a joke. I think the point of term limits in the statute is to encourage, promote new blood on boards," Kmetz replied. "I wish I could tell you we have people knocking on the doors here to line up to be candidates for board membership, but the reality does not match that."

    "Should the state be doing a better job at recruiting?" Beaudet asked.

    "Well, we do what we can," Kmetz replied.

    The questions about Dr. Atwood don't end there.

    "What would President Obama think of this? You're his vet, apparently?" Beaudet asked him.

    No reply from Atwood during the interview attempt, but in an online biography he claimed he was the President's vet. After the White House disputed his claims, he was forced to admit he never saw the president's dog Bo.

    There are also questions about one of his degrees. In addition to his veterinary degree, he also touts having obtained a medical degree in 2006 from the University of Health Sciences School of Medicine in Antigua.

    Some states won't allow graduates from that school to be licensed, and the Massachusetts medical board tells us there isn't a single doctor in the state practicing medicine with a degree from there.

    Through his attorney, Atwood says he pursued the degree as an academic exercise.

    But it all adds to Tim Goodman's concerns.

    "The real story of his behavior needs to be told, about who he really is," he says.

    Atwood's attorney says her client did not resign because of the Goodman case, but rather because he realized he's been on the board too long. She also points to the outcome of a civil suit filed against Atwood by Tim Goodman as evidence the system worked.

    In 2009, the judge sided with Atwood but called it a troubling case, and raised questions about the doctor's ethics.

    FOX Undercover asked the state about concerns the board cannot fairly investigate the allegations against Atwood. A spokesperson declined to comment, citing the pending investigation.

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