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Search For New Medical Examiner Begins

Now that El Paso County Commissioners have fired Medical Examiner Dr. Paul Shrode, what is expected to be a difficult search for his replacement has begun.

According to the County’s Human Resources director, Shrode will not get any kind of buyout or severance pay from the county, and that has cleared the way for what could be a lengthy search for a new chief medical examiner.

Monday’s move to shed themselves of Shrode leaves the County trying to find a qualified candidate for what Human Resources Director Betsy Keller calls “a very difficult position to fill.”

Hiring a new Chief Medical Examiner for El Paso County might be a lot more difficult than you think. Keller told me they tried to hire a new Deputy Medical Examiner for El Paso County, but after three years of posting it on their web site, they removed it, after failing to attract any qualified candidates.

“I just think it’s a very narrow field where there’s a narrow amount of applicants in the pool who are actually seeking other employment,” Keller said.

Keller said it’s not that El Paso County is not competitive salary-wise. Other than Lubbock, whose medical examiner earns $450,000 a year, El Paso’s $254,000 a year seems to be on par with the rest of the area, including Albuquerque ($250,000/year), Dallas ($248,000/year)and San Antonio ($236,000).

“The County has recently reviewed it’s qualifications for that job, it’s recently reviewed what everyone else is paying for the same type of jobs around Texas,” Keller said. “I think it’s competitive.”

The County is scheduled to discuss the position at its June 7th Commissioner’s Court meeting. And while a higher salary seems unlikely, Keller said a different approach is in order.

“I think we’re going to do some things a little bit different,” she said. “We weren’t actively recruiting on a national basis other than on our web site, so I think we’ll bring back to court to recommend that we do to actively recruit a medical examiner.”

ABC-7 also spoke with the District Attorney’s office Tuesday, which is reviewing all of the cases Shrode has testified in. Spokesperson Renee Railey said they do not expect that to cost the County anything additional and they have yet to hear from anyone considering an appeal. However, according to a Houston area newspaper, an inmate scheduled to die in July may appeal his conviction based on Shrode testimony.

Keller said the County will meet this week with contracted medical examiner Dr. Juan Contin to see if he is willing to fill in for Shrode full-time until a new medical examiner can be found.

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