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Higher salary urged for medical examiner

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The city increased the pay of the chief medical examiner last year to be the highest of any city employee, but that failed to fill the post.

Now the city Salary Commission is recommending that the chief medical examiner’s pay go up again — this time to $200,000 a year, a 30 percent increase.

The jobs of chief medical examiner and deputy medical examiner were the only positions recommended for raises Wednesday. The two positions are the only ones Mayor Peter Carlisle is recommending for raises.

“Our continued recruitment efforts just didn’t yeld many well-qualified candidates,” Managing Director Doug­las Chin said. Industry experts told city officials that the $153,847 current salary was not sufficient for the chief medical examiner of the country’s 12th-largest city, he said.

A May 2008 state labor report reported the mean salary for physicians in Hono­lulu at $197,350.

The chief examiner’s job has been vacant since Kanthi De Alwis retired in October 2009. Deputy Medical Examiner William Goodhue has been acting chief but is not interested in the job, Chin said.

The city Medical Examiner’s Office is authorized for three full-time pathologist positions (the chief, the deputy and a civil serv­ice post), but Goodhue is the only full-timer currently on staff, Chin said. The city uses pathologists to fill in on standby, he said.

The commission’s recommendation to pay the chief $200,000 exceeds the $176,924 suggested by the Carlisle administration.

Meanwhile, the commission could not reach a decision on giving raises to the police and fire chiefs and their deputies, as urged by Police Chief Louis Kea­loha and Deputy Fire Chief Rolland Harvest.

With one of the seven commission members absent, the panel deadlocked 3-3 at its meeting Wednesday on a plan to give increases to the chiefs, Chairman David Akina said.

The chiefs have long argued that their top subordinates make more than they do, making it difficult to recruit for the top jobs. Kea­loha earns $136,236 and two deputies make $129,936; six assistants are on a scale that reaches $144,312.

In the Fire Department, eight subordinates make more than Fire Chief Kenneth Silva.

The commission’s draft will be open for comment at a public hearing scheduled for 3 p.m. April 20 in the City Council committee room.

If approved, the recommendations will be forwarded to the Council, which needs a two-thirds majority to reject them.

Akina said the commission wants to have its role changed so that it can have the final say on salaries.

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