The Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure confirmed this week it is investigating years-old allegations of ethical impropriety against popular Vineyard veterinarian Dr. Steven Atwood.
Dr. Atwood, the owner of Animal Health Care Associates, resigned last month as chairman of the state Board of Registration in Veterinarian Medicine, the agency that oversees licenses for veterinarians. He gave no reason for his resignation in a brief April 16 letter to Gov. Deval Patrick.
But in a telephone interview Thursday with the Gazette, Dr. Atwood said he was asked to resign after what he described as a confrontation with Fox 25 News as he left the April meeting of the board.
“I was attacked by Fox News, that is the story,” Dr. Atwood said. “I did resign, out of concern to protect the board which was feeling the heat about this very ancient case.”
The case in question is a civil dispute that began nine years ago between Dr. Atwood and Timothy Goodman, who claimed the veterinarian improperly accepted $56,000 from his 85-year-old mother in 2004. The case was dismissed by the Dukes County superior court after a trial in 2009, though the presiding judge criticized Dr. Atwood in the decision, saying his acceptance of the money raised questions about his ethics.
Rosemarie Haigazian, an Edgartown attorney who represented Dr. Atwood in the case, said Thursday that the case is a matter of record. “The system worked,” she said. “Mr. Goodman had a problem, he had the right to bring suit and he did that. Dr. Atwood had the right to defend himself and he did. Mr. Goodman had the right to appeal, and he did and lost. This is something that was decided by the courts and the judge said what he said and it was over. If Mr. Goodman wants to take it further now, then that is his right too.”
The Board of Registration in Veterinarian Medicine is one of 31 state boards of registration for various professions that make up the Division of Professional Licensure.
Jayda Leder-Luis, a spokeswoman for the division, said the division initiated an investigation of Dr. Atwood after being made aware of allegations in the 2009 lawsuit.
Ms. Leder-Luis said the Division has authority to investigate allegations against any licensed professional in the state, noting the investigation was initiated by division staff, not as the result of a consumer complaint. She added, “this is not an ordinary situation,” because of Dr. Atwood’s position as chairman of the licensing board.