Mohave County resolves medical examiner issue

KINGMAN - Dr. Rexene Worrell of Lake Havasu City will continue to serve as Mohave County's medical examiner through June 30, 2016, in a contract extension narrowly approved Monday by the Board of Supervisors.

The board voted 3-2 to extend Worrell's contract with minor modifications and no increase in monthly fees. The cost for the final one-year period will be $627,600.

Supervisor Buster Johnson, who voted against the contract along with Supervisor Jean Bishop, raised a number of questions about fees assessed by Worrell that are not being reported to the county.

Johnson wants to see more transparency in recording the fees and also wants to make sure the board approves any increases in fees.

Worrell agreed to charge fees adopted by the board in accordance with state law for the following services: $35 for a cremation authorization; $10 for an autopsy report for extended family; $25 for an autopsy report for media and attorneys; and $25 for an autopsy report in CD format.

Currently, the medical examiner is charging the fees and has been keeping the fees in order to support her business operation.

"I have no problem with the fees going back two years. It's just the transparency is not what I thought it would be," Johnson said.

Worrell said she receives an IRS Form 1099 for all her fees and has paid taxes on those fees.

County administrator Mike Hendrix said Worrell's renewal agreement contains a clause that she can't charge any fees unless approved by the board.

The contract increases the hourly rate to provide expert testimony for after-contract services from $200 an hour to $350 an hour.

Johnson also asked about liability insurance and was told by procurement director Annie Newton-Fruhwirth that the medical examiner provides her own malpractice insurance.

"Some of this should be controlled by us," Johnson said. "I think we should have insurance and we should work that out in the contract."

In other action Monday by the Board of Supervisors:

• The board voted 5-0 to authorize Mohave County Environmental Rural Clean-Up Enforcement to offer a $500 reward to persons with information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals responsible for illegal dumping in Mohave County.

Supervisor Gary Watson handed a personal check for $500 to finance director Coral Loyd for the first reward. He said more than 1 million pounds of trash have been removed by ERACE in the program's six years.

Supervisor Hildy Angius, who was on phone via conference call throughout the meeting, asked about the prosecution rate for illegal dumping.

Bishop, a former ERACE officer, said it's very small because violators have five days to clean up their illegal dumping and avoid prosecution, and most of them do.

"I think the intent is honorable, but I don't think citizens will be happy to stick their neck out and then it doesn't get prosecuted," Bishop said.

Watson made an amendment to take away the five-day "window of opportunity" that was approved with the vote.

• The board accepted the resignation of Hendrix as employee trustee for the Self-Insured Retention and Employee Benefits Trust boards, due to Hendrix no longer being a county employee, and appointed Loyd as employee trustee. Hendrix was reappointed as trustee at large.