Lovick hires new county medical examiner

EVERETT — Snohomish County Executive John Lovick has hired a forensic pathologist to lead the county morgue, after the County Council rejected ideas for restructuring the office.

Dr. Daniel Selove begins his job the county’s chief medical examiner this week. Selove has been working as one of two forensic pathologists in the office since October.

“I’m glad to have Dr. Selove as our new chief medical examiner,” Executive John Lovick said in a prepared statement. “This office does important work vital to the wellbeing of our communities. We’ve made great strides the last year moving this office forward and I want to continue down that path.”

Selove will oversee an 11-member staff that performs death-scene investigations and autopsies. They work to determine the cause and manner of death in cases with important implications for public health and safety, including homicides, suicides and traumatic injuries. Last year, that included responding to the Oso mudslide and the mass shooting in the Marysville Pilchuck High School cafeteria.

Selove brings years of experience working with coroners and medical examiner’s offices throughout Washington. He served as Snohomish County’s associate medical examiner from 1994 to 1998.

He joined the county more recently after the resignation of Dr. Norman Thiersch, whose skill as a forensic scientist was undermined by an inability to work well with others, particularly some of the people he supervised. Thiersch was the subject of two employee lawsuits that the county settled in 2013 and 2014 for a combined $620,000.

Lovick’s administration had tried to reorganize the morgue by changing the model that puts a medical doctor in charge of all operations of the office. Instead, his administration hired nationally recognized forensic expert Dan Christman away from the Bothell Police Department to be the county morgue’s deputy director. Before becoming a police officer, Christman had worked in the county medical examiner’s office as a death investigator.

A majority of the County Council almost cut Christman’s job from the 2015 budget, reasoning there were too many managers among the office’s dozen staff. Instead, they ordered him to come up with a restructuring plan for the office by this spring.

In April, a council majority rejected a proposal that would have installed Christman as the office’s director, largely because state law and county code say a doctor certified in forensic pathology must be in charge. They also turned down an option that would have kept the medical duties under the chief examiner, while giving Christman oversight of the investigators and administrative staff.

Some current death investigators, as well as their union, had praised Christman’s leadership. The council’s decision cut off funding for his job and he’s set to leave July 16.

“Dan’s contribution to this office has made all the difference,” Lovick said in his statement. “I’m very grateful to him for his service to this county.”

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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