MILTON — Dr. Tim Gallagher will take over Tuesday from Dr. Andrea Minyard as the First Judicial Circuit's interim chief medical examiner at a salary of $350,000 a year, Santa Rosa County Administrator Dan Schebler shared with county commissioners Thursday.
Gallagher’s contract calls for him to perform a maximum of 250 autopsies a year, or an average of 63 per quarter. Gallagher, an associate medical examiner for about seven years, would make an additional $1,250 for each autopsy over 63 per quarter if temporary associate medical examiners are unable to do them. Temps typically earn between $1,500 and $2,500 per day.
Since October 2018, the medical examiner's office has performed 729 autopsies total.
Also, the district plans to hire a consultant, Dr. Jon Thogmartin, chief medical examiner for District 6, which serves Pinellas and Pasco counties. Thogmartin plans to help District 1, which includes Okaloosa, Walton, Santa Rosa and Escambia counties, conduct a search for a permanent chief medical examiner to replace Minyard.
Minyard had 15 years of rocky service to the counties and has a lawsuit pending against them.
Thogmartin has about 24 years of experience as a forensic pathologist and is licensed in Florida and Texas. In the past, he has successfully helped Volusia County find a chief medical examiner.
There is a shortage of medical examiners in the United States with only 500 practicing, while 1,200 more are needed, the National Commission on Forensic Science has reported. Annually, about 21 certified forensic pathologists enter the field each year, the commission said.
The First Judicial Circuit plans to advertise again for the chief medical examiner position in January, said Greg Marcille, the chief assistant state attorney.
The Northwest Florida counties had four candidates apply and four withdraw, including Dr. Scott Luzi, a San Diego medical examiner. He originally accepted the job and then withdrew Aug. 23 for personal reasons.
Schebler told commissioners to prepare for the cost of maintaining the office to skyrocket.
“All the counties realize we actually need three doctors on our staff,” Schebler said at Monday's County Commission meeting. “Be ready for a budget amendment when we add that third doc.”
County governments might also need more money for a new or renovated medical examiner office.
Plus, Okaloosa and Walton leaders have suggested approaching the state lawmakers about splitting District 1 into east and west offices.
Kelly Windes, an Okaloosa County commissioner who serves on the chief medical examiner search committee, said the idea sounds good to him.
“That’s been thought about, but it would take an act of the Legislature to create another district,” Windes said. “That may not be out of the question. I’m willing to look at it.”