Candidate For Oklahoma's Chief Medical Examiner Job Has Prior Ethics Violations

Wednesday, December 8th 2010, 9:06 pm
By: News On 6

Oklahoma Impact Team & Ashli Sims, News On 6

UNDATED -- A top candidate for Oklahoma's Chief Medical Examiner position has a history of ethics violations.

The Oklahoma Impact team confirmed Dr. William Cox is one of two applicants currently being considered for the job. The Oklahoma Impact team also discovered Dr. Cox pleaded guilty to ethical violations in Ohio when he was a county coroner there.

Read the court documents

Documents show Dr. Cox pleaded guilty to nine ethics violations in 1996 and was forced to pay $140,000 in restitution. The documents show Cox used county facilities to do autopsies for other counties for personal profit. Cox got a six month suspended sentence, but did serve a one month sentence in a half-way house.

In an e-mail, one of the board members which oversees the Medical Examiner's office defended the violations, pointing out that all the charges were reduced to misdemeanors. A spokesperson for the ME's office confirmed Doctor Cox is a candidate for the job and the board is aware of the "situation in Ohio."

The board has a meeting next week to discuss the chief position and to speak with Dr. Cox about his resume.

It's a state agency that's been under the microscope and under pressure for years. Oklahoma's medical examiner's office has been plagued by staffing shortages and budget problems. And it's seen a revolving door of chiefs - and is still without a permanent leader.

Dr. Jeffrey Gofton came under fire when he decided to save money by stopping autopsies from being performed in Tulsa. After an outcry from law enforcement, Gofton did an about-face. He left the job five months later.

1/8/2008 Related Story: An Extension On Autopsies

In March of 2009, the agency hired Dr. Collie Trant, he didn't actually take the helm until May. Meanwhile, Kevin Rowland, a chief investigator who had been on administrative leave, resigned in March amid allegations of sexual harassment.

3/2/2009 Related Story: Medical Examiner's Investigator Resigns

Three months later, the ME's office was cited for 40 deficiencies and stripped of its accreditation.

7/1/2009 Related Story: Medical Examiner's Office Fails Accreditation

Then came the scathing multi-county Grand Jury report that accused employees of sexual harassment, sloppy record-keeping and mishandling evidence.

Less than a year after taking the job, Trant was suspended and later fired. He's said he was kicked out for trying to help indicted investigator Kevin Rowland clear his name. In Trant's absence, an interim chief stepped in and resigned.

3/31/2010 Related Story: Former Chief Medical Examiner's Attorney Fires Back

Last summer, the state board of medico-legal investigations voted to promote Dr. Andrew Sibley to interim chief. Sibley was from Arizona and had worked for the Oklahoma ME's office for 10 years.

Then it came out that Sibley had been sued for sexual harassment back in Arizona.

Three months ago, the board that oversees the ME's office thought they'd found their man in another Arizona doctor. They offered Dr. Phillip Keen the job, pending a background check.

But a check of his history revealed that Keen had carried a body for about 100 miles in the back of his pickup truck.

The board withdrew its offer to Keen and tried to give interim chief Dr. Sibley the job, but he turned them down. Dr. Sibley remains as the interim chief for the ME's office. The board that oversees that office is still looking for his permanent replacement.