The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to name Dr. Michael Hunter the new chief medical examiner.
“I think it’s a great agreement,” said Board Chairman Miguel Villapudua. “I think it’s going to work well for our county.”
The board voted in April 2018 to eliminate the office of the coroner — a position formerly held by then-sheriff Steve Moore — and establish a new Office of the Medical Examiner independent of the Sheriff’s Office.
The decision came after Dr. Susan Parsons and Dr. Bennet Omalu resigned from their positions as forensic pathologists with the coroner’s office in December 2017, claiming that Moore interfered with investigations by attempting to influence their decisions.
The medical examiner’s office and coroner’s office will coexist until Hunter’s office is fully staffed and operational, according to County Administrator Monica Nino.
Hunter was chosen out of five candidates in an open selection process that began May 3, 2018. Supervisor Chuck Winn thanked Nino and her staff for finding the candidates, and believes this will be a “unique opportunity” to streamline the autopsy process.
“I appreciate all the time and effort spent by staff to get to this point,” Winn said.
Under the contract, Hunter’s office will have a budget of approximately $1.2 million per year for four years for a total of just over $5.1 million, Nino said, some of which will be used to contract or sub-contract pathology services through the Forensic Doctors Group, LLC, a private company of which Hunter is the sole proprietor.
“The District Attorney and members of the office look forward to working with Dr. Hunter in the future to build a state of the art medical examiner program to provide professional services to the citizens of San Joaquin County,” District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar wrote in a statement to the News-Sentinel.
Hunter received a doctor of medicine degree from the Medical University of South Carolina, and is licensed to practice medicine in both California and Florida.
He brings a total of 17 years of experience as chief medical examiner, having held the position in the City and County of San Francisco since 2015 and in Florida’s 14th and 16th districts before that.
A certified peace officer in California, Hunter is a member of the California Coroners Association and the National Association of Medical Examiners.
Supervisor Kathy Miller was impressed by Hunter’s qualifications, and excited to see how the medical examiner’s office will operate independent of the sheriff.
“I think we made a good decision on behalf of the residents of San Joaquin County,” Miller said.
Deputy Andrea Lopez emailed the following statement to the News-Sentinel on behalf of the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office.
“We, at the Sheriff’s Office, are eager and look forward to working with Chief Pathologist Michael Hunter,” Lopez wrote. “He will find a very welcoming department who enjoy working for the public.”