5 tapped as Florida Keys medical examiner finalists

The former medical examiner for the Florida Keys was not reappointed.
The former medical examiner for the Florida Keys was not reappointed.

Come Wednesday afternoon, a new medical examiner for Monroe County might be tapped to replace the former examiner, who was forced out due to widespread concerns about his attitude and working relationships with a variety of people and agencies.

The District 16 Medical Examiner Nominating Committee, comprising 17 representatives from law enforcement, funeral homes, hospitals and others, convenes at 10 a.m. at the Marathon Government Center, mile marker 48.5 bayside, to interview five finalists for the position. One has a lengthy Keys history and another is the interim Monroe County medical examiner.

In May, the state Medical Examiners Commission, having a rare meeting in the Keys, voted not to extend the term of Dr. Thomas Beaver, who was hired in 2014. At the time, commission Chairman Stephen Nelson, chief medical examiner for District 10, which is four counties in Central Florida, told Beaver following testimony: “There isn’t a single one [person] that has anything nice to say.”

Complaints included Sheriff Rick Ramsay saying Beaver had incidents of “yelling and screaming” over differences at scenes where law enforcement was involved. “At the end of the day, there is a problem that exists here. There is no working relationship... I believe we deserve better.”

“To have the entire community feel they can’t work with you, to me that’s astounding,” commission member Barbara Wolf, medical examiner for District 5, told Beaver.

Beaver’s contract officially ended June 30 (he had been on a one-month extension). Dr. Michael Steckbauer, associate medical examiner for District 14 (Panama City), is now the interim examiner. His official interim contract will go to the Monroe County Commission when it meets on July 19 at the Marathon Government Center. He is one of the five finalists for the full-time job.

Wednesday following interviews of the five, “I would imagine someone would make a nomination of who they want to see,” said Monroe State Attorney Dennis Ward, chairman of the selection committee. “I would think the funeral home guys will ask their questions. Myself and [Assistant State Attorney Mark Wilson] will ask some questions. At the end, we’ll compare notes.”

The selection will be made by a simple majority. Then the chosen candidate will work out a three-year contract with Assistant County Attorney Cynthia Hall. The current annual Medical Examiner’s Office budget funded by the county is $686,000. The examiner can also collect fees such as for cremation approval, Hall said Friday.

The finalists

Once a contract is done, the appointment goes to Gov. Rick Scott for formal approval. The five finalists to be interviewed Wednesday (the session is open to the public), with information from their resumes:

▪ Steckbauer, who has served as an associate medical examiner for Monroe since 2014. He has been director of medical education and associate medical examiner for District 17 (Fort Lauderdale), associate medical examiner in Miami-Dade County and Jacksonville and a biology instructor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. He is a major in the Army National Guard who received his medical degree from the University of Nevada.

▪ Zhiming Li of Marathon. He received his medical degree from Henan Medical University in China and did a pathology residency at St. John’s Medical Center. In the Keys, he lists being a pathologist at Fishermen’s Community Hospital and Mariners Hospital; Nelson said he is certified in anatomic and clinical pathology but not forensic pathology. He has served in a variety of roles with the Monroe examiner’s office since 2000.

▪ Ira Kanfer of Avon, Conn. Since 1986, he has been associate medical examiner for Connecticut in its Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and is a former associate medical examiner in Miami-Dade County. He taught forensic pathology for a year at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. He received his medical degree from Southern Illinois University.

▪ Michael Markey of Lansing, Mich. Since 2014, he has been medical examiner or deputy medical examiner for several Michigan counties. He received his medical degree from Southern Illinois University and has been chief resident of pathology at the University of New Mexico-Albuquerque.

▪ Cameron Snyder of Pensacola. He is associate medical examiner for District 1 (Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach) and previously was chief forensic pathologist in Baton Rouge, La. He has been a state medical examiner in Alabama and Georgia. He received his medical degree from Hahnemann University (now Drexel) in Philadelphia.

Larry Kahn: 305-440-3218