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Preckwinkle picks Miami pathologist for morgue post

Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times
by LISA DONOVAN

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has found a replacement for retiring Cook County Medical Examiner, Dr. Nancy Jones.


Preckwinkle announced Tuesday she’s nominating Dr. Stephen J. Cina, the associate medical director of the University of Miami Tissue Bank and a board-certified anatomic and forensic pathologist with 20 years of forensic autopsy experience.

Preckwinkle’s pick is expected to be voted on by commissioners and approved at the July 24 county board meeting.

“Dr. Cina comes to us with outstanding credentials, not only as a leader in the medical examiner field, but as a distinguished medical researcher,” Preckwinkle said in a statement. “His wide-ranging expertise and executive experience clearly show he’s capable of providing the highest level of leadership and direction that will reshape the Medical Examiner’s Office into a model facility. Along with my recent appointment of Daryl Jackson as executive director, I’m very confident the ME’s office will soon be in the hands of a highly skilled and experienced management team.”

Reached by phone, Cina, 46, said Tuesday that he has “some big ideas, and I feel the county is supportive.”

“I am aware of the challenges — but it’s nothing insurmountable,” he said, declining to comment on whether he was recruited for the position or sought out the job. He referred questions, for now, to Preckwinkle’s media office.

If approved, Dr. Cina will be walking into an office in cleanup mode after the Sun-Times revealed earlier this year that bodies were piling up in a cooler at the West Side facility and that the place was filthy — in such bad shape that the Labor Department launched an investigation of blood and other bodily fluids pooling on the floor there.

Initially, Jones and other officials blamed state budget cuts, which included a lack of funding to bury those on public aid, for bodies piling up. That funding has since been reinstated.

But Preckwinkle also blamed management — initially suggesting she’d like to jettison Jones — and then backing off. Last month, Jones announced her retirement, effective July 31, and one of her deputies was ousted.

Her appointment of Cina — an outsider — represents a cultural change she’s been looking for since the first reports of problems at the morgue. Jones, a widely respected forensic pathologist, is a 26-year veteran of the office. And her deputy, Kimberly Jackson, was a political hire and holdover from the late County Board President John Stroger’s era.

“Over the past several months, we’ve been addressing serious concerns at the ME’s office head on,” Preckwinkle said in the statement. “These issues arose because of a culture that was allowed to go unchecked in the past. Since earlier this year, we’ve steadily implemented an overhaul of personnel, policies and procedures. With this pending change in top management, we’re well on our way to creating a first-rate Medical Examiner’s Office.”

Cina would serve a five-year term in the position, which currently pays $230,640.



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