By Angie Mayes
Special to Mt. Juliet News
An increase in salary for the Wilson County medical examiner was a controversial issue for years, but the Wilson County Budget Committee brought it up again Thursday night.
State law mandates each county have at least one medical examiner, according to county finance director Aaron Maynard. The medical examiner is required to be a medical doctor.
“In 2017, we had 277 [fatalities,] and last year, we had 236,” said medical examiner Dr. Scott Giles. “It’s becoming harder and harder for myself and [co-worker Jacob Cook], who are the primary investigators at this time, to have time to set aside.”
He said he has a couple of investigators who are interested in helping, but they have jobs. Giles requested the amount per day for an investigator to be on a 24-hour call be raised to $200 a day. For a call that involved a death, they would not be paid extra, Giles said.
“[The $200 a day] comes out less than $10 an hour,” Giles said. “If the investigator gets one call or five, they’re paid the same. I think this is the most equitable way to go about it.”
The total additional funding was $50,000, Maynard said.
“We basically had a salary line for the county coroner which was incorrect because he’s really not on our payroll. We basically shuffled the other line items around to contracted services,” said Maynard.
The medical examiner’s office has not had an increase in budget in years, Maynard said.
“We’ve debated this three times,” he said. “Dr. Giles has brought three different proposals.
Autopsies have increased in cost, but there has been no increase in salary.”
Commissioner William Glover said the budget was increased each year.
“Unless we computed one-and-a-half percent when we did the budget, they haven’t had a budget increase,” Maynard said.
Giles said the amount hasn’t increased, but because the number of deaths has increased, the funding was increased.
“I just saw that three years ago. It went up quite a bit,” Glover said. “Two years ago and last year, it was adjusted.”
Maynard said the autopsy budget line item was increased because “We never had enough money for autopsies.
“I don’t recall us raising any of the lines when it comes to actual cost of the medical examiner,” Maynard said.
Giles said the funding started out at “$75 a body, and as the volume increased, we asked for $125 a body. It’s been that way for at least 10 or more years.”
Commissioner Kenny Reich said, “I know people who work at the hospital that don’t get that kind of money.”
The total cost would be $73,000, which would be $200 a day,for 365 days a year. If they were paid per death, they would get $125 per body.
“If we go to a four-fatality wreck on the interstate, that’s $500,” Giles said. “I have investigators who are interested, but they say, ‘I’m sitting at home and not getting paid. Why am I doing this?’ I want to add two more investigators.”
Glover said he believes, “We ought to look at the numbers and see what other counties are doing. We need you, but that’s a lot of money to add on.”
Giles said he does not charge to sign death certificates or cremation permits. Other medical examiners in other counties charge for that, he said.
The commissioners approved the request, but Glover voted against it.