JASPER, Tenn. — Marion County is moving to hire a county medical examiner and a medical director for the county jail as a result of pending litigation showing the county is not complying with state law, officials said.
Now the County Commission has to begin the process of filling those jobs. County leaders would not discuss the pending case.
“One of the things that came out of the legal action is the fact that [the county] is not in compliance with the law on the medical director for the jail,” Marion County Attorney Billy Gouger said. “It requires that the position is appointed by the board and whoever the person is occupying that position must have a written contract, and we don’t have that. I don’t think we’ve ever had that.”
Gouger said the county is also lacking a certified medical examiner because “the board has not filled that position or reappointed someone to that office.”
Commission Chairman Gene Hargis said the board needs to conform with the law as soon as possible.
“In order to be in compliance with this ruling, we need to go ahead and do that,” he said. “I think we need to just go ahead and sweep the floor and get everything taken care of.”
The process for appointing each position is quite different, Gouger said, and they have to be done separately.
For the jail’s medical director job, candidates need only to be licensed to practice medicine in Tennessee, officials said.
For the medical examiner, however, a group of doctors who reside in the county must submit at least two interested nominees to County Mayor John Graham.
“They bring that back to my office, and then I bring the list to the commission for a decision,” Graham said.
Though Hargis said the positions are “two totally different jobs,” he and the board hope to find one person that can do both.
Gouger said the most appropriate way to accomplish that would be to find a medical examiner first.
“The selection of the medical examiner is more closely controlled by law than the medical director of the jail,” he said. “[The director] is a simple matter of a contract between [the board] and person in a position qualified to do the work. I think if you’re going to try to find someone to do both jobs that would be the logical way to do it.”
Graham said he will begin the process to find a medical examiner immediately.
“I think we’d all like to see one person doing both these jobs when we get it all worked out,” Graham said.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.