County opens search for new medical examiner

Monroe County officials soon will launch a search committee for a new Florida Keys medical examiner.

Dr. Thomas Beaver, who last week lost a bid to be nominated for reappointment as chief medical examiner for the state’s Circuit Court District 16, will remain on the job through May 31 and possibly through June. Beaver’s contract with Monroe County expires May 31 but his state appointment as district medical examiner ends June 30.

“I am currently discussing the possibility of a contract extension through June with Dr. Beaver’s attorney,” assistant County Attorney Cynthia Hall said Tuesday.

Mornoe County State Attorney Dennis Ward will lead the formation of the search committee, which is still being assembled. Ward said he was highly encouraged that Dr. Stephen Nelson, chairman of the state Medical Examiners Commission, has volunteered to serve on Monroe County’s search committee.

On May 10, the six members of the state Medical Examiners Commission meeting in Marathon unanimously voted against nominating Beaver to a new three-year term in the Florida Keys. The final decision rests with Gov. Rick Scott.

Beaver, 61, has clashed with Sheriff Rick Ramsay, other Keys law-enforcement officers, local funeral homes and Monroe County administrators during his three years in the Keys. After last week’s hearing of more than two hours, the state examiners board declared the relationship has become largely unworkable.

At the same meeting, five other state medical examiners were quickly endorsed for new terms with no opposition.

The state’s Circuit Court District 16 covers all the Florida Keys. Funding for the medical examiner’s office is a complex process where a pathologist endorsed by the Medical Examiners Commission and formally appointed by the governor negotiates an overall contract with local government to run the office that handles death cases.

Within the office’s budget — currently just under $700,000 in Monroe County — the examiner largely determines pay rates and expenses for himself and his direct staff.

In a response to a 2016 county audit of the medical examiner’s office, Beaver wrote that he “provided himself with a modest annual salary of $180,000 (exclusive of benefits), well below that of the previous medical examiner and far below market rate for compensation for a board certified forensic pathologist working as a medical examiner with a similar workload.”

Auditors had criticized Beaver for spending money on his personal vehicle and rent. He responded that the “Audit Report failed to consider the fact that, as an independent contractor, the Medical Examiner considered not only his base salary as compensation for services, but also benefits associated with being a business owner and operator.”

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206