Just three applicants, two from California and one from Texas, applied and already two of those have withdrawn since the job was advertised June 24.

FORT WALTON BEACH — A search for a new First Judicial Circuit chief medical examiner to replace Dr. Andrea Minyard, who has had a rocky 16-year career, has produced few candidates.

Although the State Attorney’s Office reported it had “great confidence” in Minyard, the Medical Examiners Commission voted to remove her in January.

An 11-member committee made up of local government officials from Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties was created and plans to make a recommendation to the Medical Examiners Commission. The state commission has six months to forward a name to Gov. Ron DeSantis for appointment.

Just three applicants, two from California and one from Texas, applied and already two of those have withdrawn since the job was advertised June 24.

The committee met July 17 in hopes of producing more applicants. As part of that effort, it added a salary range of $250,000 to $350,000 to the job description. It requires interested candidates to have national board certification as a forensic pathologist and previous management experience of a Medical Examiner’s office.

Greg Marcille, the chief assistant state attorney, said the new job post failed to produce any applicants in its first week to replace Minyard, who now serves as the interim chief.

“We’re hopeful with the addition of the salary to the advertisement, we will receive more applications,” Marcille said. “But there are not enough forensic pathologists to cover all the needs.”

Instead of the up to 1,200 forensic pathologists needed in the United States, only an estimated 500 board-certified pathologists — who average 52 years old — practice, the National Commission on Forensic Science reported. On average, only 21 board certified forensic pathologists enter the field each year, the commission said.

Minyard’s attorney filed a lawsuit May 15, 2018, against all four counties claiming they had no right to audit all of her office’s financial records. Okaloosa County’s Department of Inspector General audit released in July 2018 found she misused thousands of taxpayers’ funds, including pocketing $673,129.26 in salary and receiving $1,143,242.03 in professional fees in 2017.

Among other things, the audit reported Minyard paid her daughters $77,000 to work for her during the summer months between 2010 and 2017. Additionally, the audit questioned why Okaloosa and Walton paid for a medical examiner’s office in Fort Walton Beach when all autopsies since 2014 were performed in Pensacola.

Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley, who serves on the search committee for a new medical examiner, declined to comment until Minyard's lawsuit is resolved, according to spokeswoman Michelle Nicholson.

Kelly Windes, the Okaloosa County Commission chairman, said the committee in its “infinite wisdom” did not put a salary in its original job post.

“We’re hoping (the salary range) will draw a bigger applicant pool,” Windes said. “We want someone with plenty of experience and top shelf who might be worth it.”

Marcille said because of the estimated 700 to 800 autopsies done a year, Minyard may stay on to give the office three doctors to share the workload. If not, a new chief medical examiner may request a third forensic pathologist.

Santa Rosa County Administrator Dan Schebler said because of the shortage of forensic pathologists and the possibility of three medical examiners handling autopsies in the future, he expects the county’s share of money to escalate to support of the Medical Examiner’s Office.

“Our financial burden will not do anything but increase,” Schebler said. “The new chief medical examiner may have some funding requests.”