State Attorney Bill Eddins announced that Luzi, a San Diego resident and board certified forensic pathologist since 2005, declined to take the job for personal reasons. Luzi, a military veteran, serves as the medical director and manager of Anatomic, Clinical, and Forensic Pathology Services in Escondido, California.

FORT WALTON BEACH — Instead of becoming the new Chief Medical Examiner for the First Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, Dr. Scott Luzi withdrew his acceptance of the position Friday.

State Attorney Bill Eddins announced that Luzi, a San Diego resident and board certified forensic pathologist since 2005, declined to take the job for personal reasons. Luzi, a military veteran, serves as the medical director and manager of Anatomic, Clinical, and Forensic Pathology Services in Escondido, California.

Four candidates have applied for the $250,000 to $350,000 position since June and all four have backed out, leaving Florida’s First Circuit with zero forensic pathologists to take over right now.

“This had nothing to do with the ongoing dispute between the counties and the current medical examiner (Dr. Andrea Minyard),” Eddins said. “He was fully informed about that before he applied.”

Santa Rosa County Administrator Dan Schebler said Luzi’s withdraw was a “disappointment.”

“We’re now back at square one in our search for a medical examiner,” Schebler said.

After serving as medical examiner for the First Circuit for about 15 years, Minyard plans to step down Sept. 30.

Eddins said he would like the search committee he oversees to consider hiring Dr. Tim Gallagher as the interim at its 2:30 p.m. Sept. 18 meeting at the M.C. Blanchard Judicial Building located in Pensacola. Gallagher has served as the associate medical examiner for about seven years, but in October, Eddins questioned his experience and qualifications to perform in the chief's role.

“He’s really our only option,” said Eddins, who admitted he worries Minyard’s rocky relationship with the counties may prevent the hiring of a new chief for “several months.”

The cost of hiring Gallagher may surpass the $350,000 maximum salary the counties are offering candidates currently, Eddins added. Minyard makes $250,000 a year.

“(Gallagher) has done a very good job,” Eddins said. “He’s credible. He doesn’t go out on a limb.”

Minyard has served as an interim M.E. since January when the Florida Medical Examiners Commission failed to reappoint her as chief at the request of the Okaloosa, Walton, Santa Rosa and Escambia officials she serves.

Additionally, Minyard has a pending lawsuit against Okaloosa and Escambia counties. Filed May 15, 2018, she contends that the Okaloosa County’s Department of Inspector General had no right to audit the financial records of her business Gulf Coast Autopsy Physicians. The audit found, among other issues, she misused thousands of taxpayers’ funds, including pocketing $673,129.26 in salary and receiving $1,143,242.03 in professional fees in 2017.

Okaloosa and Walton county officials have also complained about paying for a medical examiner’s office in Fort Walton Beach when all autopsies since 2014 have been performed in Pensacola.

In the future, the counties plan to pay the Chief Medical Examiner the office through a non-profit that they control.

“We want to take a different approach and improve transparency,” Schebler said. “We will keep track of public funds in a public entity.”