“Instead of fully identifying those remains and returning them to the family, [Farley] made a decision to cremate and dispose of them,” Kenney said in a statement.
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley has resigned after admitting that he “made a decision to cremate and dispose” of the remains of victims of the 1985 MOVE bombing that had been found at the city medical examiner’s office — without identifying the remains or returning them to family members, Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement Thursday.
Kenney said that, earlier this week, Farley told him that in 2017, during Kenney’s first term, he “learned of remains found by the medical examiner’s office that belonged to victims of the 1985 MOVE bombing.”
“Instead of fully identifying those remains and returning them to the family, he made a decision to cremate and dispose of them,” Kenney said in a statement. “This action lacked empathy for the victims, their family, and the deep pain that the MOVE bombing has brought to our city for nearly four decades.”
Kenney said he had asked Farley to resign effective immediately. Medical examiner Sam Gulino is also on administrative leave “pending a full investigation,” Kenney said. Cheryl Bettigole, the current director of the health department’s Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention, has been appointed acting health commissioner.
Farley’s resignation comes on the 36th anniversary of the MOVE bombing, in which 11 people, including five children, were killed.
Farley said in a statement Thursday that he learned in 2017 that the medical examiner’s office had a box containing “bones and bone fragments, presumably from one or more of the victims” of the MOVE bombing.
“Believing that investigations related to the MOVE bombing had been completed more than 30 years earlier, and not wanting to cause more anguish for the families of the victims, I authorized Dr. Gulino to … dispose of the bones and bone fragments,” Farley said. “I made this decision on my own, without notifying or consulting anyone in the managing director’s office or the mayor’s office, and I take full responsibility for it.”
Farley said he reconsidered his decision in recent weeks amid news reports that remains of one of the victims of the bombing had been handled by the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University.
“I believe my decision was wrong and represented a terrible error in judgment,” Farley said.
When reached by a reporter, MOVE member Mike Africa Jr. said he was not issuing a statement at this time, as he had “just got the news” himself and needed to consult with his family.