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Wanted: New Florida Keys medical examiner

The Monroe County Medical Examiner’s office on Crawl Key. A committee starting a search for a new Florida Keys medical examiner meets Thursday in Marathon.
The Monroe County Medical Examiner’s office on Crawl Key. A committee starting a search for a new Florida Keys medical examiner meets Thursday in Marathon. FlKeysNews.com

The search for a new chief medical examiner for the Florida Keys begins Thursday.

A 14-member nominating committee organized by State Attorney Dennis Ward holds its first meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Marathon Government Center.

Dr. Thomas Beaver, Monroe County medical examiner since 2014, was not recommended for a new three-year term by the state Medical Examiners Commission, largely due to Beaver’s often-contentious relationships with top Florida Keys law-enforcement officials, county administrators and local funeral home directors.

Beaver will remain on the job through June 30, but a contract with a new full-time medical examiner likely will not be signed until the fall, county information officer Cammy Clark said.

Dr. Michael Steckbauer, an independent medical examiner who previously has worked in the Keys, was contracted by Ward to serve as interim medical examiner.

The search committee will include Monroe County government representatives, the State Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office, local hospitals and funeral homes. A full list of members was pending at press time.

Dr. Stephen Nelson, a Central Florida medical examiner and chairman of the state’s Medical Examiners Commission, has agreed to serve the Monroe County committee.

“The nominating committee will reconvene in early July to sort through resumes and decide whom to interview,” Clark said. “The committee’s recommendations for medical examiner will be sent to the Medical Examiners Commission. Gov. Rick Scott makes the final appointment.”

Under Florida law, the governor generally approves a three-year appointment based on recommendations from agencies in the affected Circuit Court district. Local officials then negotiate an office budget with the chief medical examiner, who handles autopsies in criminal and accident cases, and unattended deaths.

Monroe County currently provides about $700,000 annually to fund salaries and expenses of the Keys medical examiner’s office.

Thursday’s open session will be held at the Monroe County Commission chambers on the second floor of the government center.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206

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