County pulls plug on plan to recruit its own pathologist

Jul 9, 2014 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

A plan, months in the works, to give Fremont County its own forensic pathologist has been scuttled, at least for now.

The problem came down to money.

The one candidate willing to consider the $100,000 salary announced by Fremont County was backing out, Coroner Ed McAuslan told Fremont County Commissioners on Monday.

The doctor would consider the job for $150,000 a year, however.

"This puts us in a bind," McAuslan said.

Commissioners say no

During a regular meeting the next day, the county board was not willing to increase the salary for the position. Several commissioners said they would like more information, and the group decided to cut the position from the coroner's budget for the coming year.

"I was willing to try it at $100,000, but I'm a little hesitant to add another $72,000," commission vice chairwoman Keja Whiteman said.

"I could probably be convinced, but I'm not sure I am."

Augmenting the salary by $50,000 would actually cost the county $72,000 because of further associated costs, such as higher retirement payments, County Clerk Julie Freese told the county board.

"I don't support jumping that to $150,000 and crossing our fingers and hoping they take the position," Commissioner Travis Becker echoed.

Future possibiity

Commissioners said if their questions were answered, they would consider the position again and increase the salary.

"I'd hate to lose that if it's really an operable idea," Commissioner Stephanie Kessler said. "It'd be valuable to me (if McAuslan) could go back and look at the potential revenue picture more."

McAsulan had been developing the forensic pathologist plan since November as a way to save money on autopsies and have an expert on hand locally to investigate deaths.

Currently, local autopsies are performed in Loveland, Colo.

Several other counties indicated they would bring their autopsies to a forensic pathologist in Fremont County. The work would generate revenue to help pay for the position.

McAuslan thought more jurisdictions would come on board once the program got going, potentially providing more income than initial projections showed.

"Initially we're going to have to (cover the cost) a bit, but I think it's only going to grow," McAuslan said July 7. "I think the potential here is great."

A lack of interested candidates has been a problem facing the forensic pathologist plan from early on. Fremont County began advertising the position at the $100,000 salary in April.

Four candidates were interested, but two dropped out because the salary was too small.

A third candidate was eliminated because he was not yet certified as a forensic pathologist, leaving the one candidate, who asked for higher pay.

Several candidates said they were making more than $200,000 in their current jobs, McAuslan said.

If the county board increases the salary, he said he could advertise the position again, and more interested candidates may apply, McAuslan said.

He left it to the commission to decide what direction to take.

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