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Preckwinkle appoints new Cook County medical examiner

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced Tuesday she was appointing Dr. Stephen J. Cina to replace the current medical examiner Dr. Nancy Jones.

The change comes after a wave of negative publicity involving accounts of bodies piling up at the city morgue. Last month, Jones announced she would retire at the end of July.

Cina is currently the associate medical director and chief administrative officer of the University of Miami’s Tissue Bank, according to a statement released by the Cook County Medical Examiner's office. From 2007 to 2011, he served as deputy chief medical examiner for Broward County, Florida. Prior to that, he was vice chair and chair of pathology for four years at McKee Medical Center in Loveland Colorado. During that same period, he served as coroner and medical examiner for Weld County, Colorado.

Preckwinkle said Cina has visited the medical examiner's office a couple times before she made her decision.

“I think that he is looking forward to the challenge, and we definitely need someone who has that attitude in the position,” Preckwinkle said. “I think his credentials are outstanding, and he’s been, in addition to his work in the medical examiner field, a distinguished medical researcher.”

Preckwinkle said Cina will receive a salary of $300,000 a year, a pay bump for the position. Jones currently makes $232,000 a year, according to the medical examiner’s office. County officials say the pay raise was necessary to remain competitive in the job hunting process.

If approved, the salary would be higher than those in Los Angeles County ($276,912), Miami-Dade County ($288,660), and Dallas County ($284,837), which a county spokeswoman provided as comparable in terms of population.

In addition, Cook County spokeswoman Mary Paleologos said Cina is asking for three additional medical examiners as well as vacant positions in the office to be filled. Preckwinkle said the county plans on accommodating those requests.

Cina still has to be approved by the board of commissioners. Preckwinkle said she expects that to happen at the board’s next meeting on July 24th.

Commissioner John Fritchey said he learned about the appointment during today’s board meeting. He said he would have appreciated hearing about it sooner, especially given what has happened at the medical examiner’s office.

Fritchey also said a pay increase and hiring additional staff would mean taking money away from other county offices.

“At a time when we have a quarter billion dollar deficit, I would have been more encouraged by someone who had an attitude he could do more with less rather than he needs more to do more.”

Fritchey said he is planning on meeting with Cina on Wednesday and wants to know Cina understands how to fix the problems facing the medical examiner’s office. Fritchey said recent history has shown being a good pathologist does not necessary translate to being a good medical examiner.

“It’s going to be important to me to know that [Cina] understands that there is an administrative component to this job and a political component to this job,” Fritchey said. “Our current medical examiner had a bunker mentality that I don’t think helped anybody’s confidence in that office, so I hope our president’s selection is somebody that can learn from his predecessor’s mistakes.”

Preckwinkle said Cina is waiting to be confirmed by the board of commissioners before officially leaving his current job. That means he will most likely not be available to step in when Dr. Nancy Jones formally retires on July 31st. County officials said they plan on making a recommendation to the board soon on who should fill that role in the interim.

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