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Elected coroner becomes county's medical examiner

Next Tuesday, Pierce County's coroner will become its medical examiner -- with a sizable increase in pay.

Incumbent Coroner Sue Dzubay has lobbied supervisors to go from an elected coroner system to a hired medical examiner to assure that qualified people are handling death investigations.

The county board voted in March to switch to a medical examiner. Ten people applied for the job, three were interviewed, the interview committee recommended Dzubay, and the county board voted last week to hire her.

The medical examiner's 2007 salary, including Social Security and Medicare contributions, will be $15,000. The coroner's 2006 pay was $1,787.

The department also has a $31,000 budget to pay for deputies, contracted services, travel, training and supplies in 2007.

Under the old system, which has been abolished by many other Wisconsin counties, the only qualification a coroner needed was to get enough votes to win a general election.

"In the past four years, the requirements of death investigation have expanded to include a detailed set of actions/guidelines for determining cause and manner of death," wrote Dzubay in a memo to supervisors. "These requirements, if not met or understood, in my opinion, could create a liability for our county."

Dzubay, a registered nurse who has been coroner since 1991, asked the board to consider the consequences of having an unqualified candidate elected to a four-year term.

She has been a registered nurse for over 25 years and is certified by the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators. Dzubay achieved that nationwide certification by taking about 60 hours of training with regional forensic sciences and death investigation experts, and by passing a four-hour examination.

The medical examiner position is part-time. The salary is based on 550 working hours per year or one-quarter of full-time.

Bjorklund Compensation Consulting determined the job's placement on the county's non-union pay grid.