Medical examiner could get pay raise
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer
The city medical examiner could potentially become the highest-paid employee in the City and County of Honolulu under a plan submitted by the Honolulu Salary Commission to the City Council.
The medical examiner has been making $118,344, the same as nearly every other department head. But the seven-member commission's latest recommendation calls for allowing a "maximum differential" of up to 30 percent for the medical examiner's position to make it more attractive to potential applicants.
That would boost the medical examiner's pay to as much as $153,847, even more than the mayor's $136,428.
The commission recommended that the pay of all other top city officials, from the mayor to deputy attorneys, stay the same while the city recovers from a slumping economy.
The pay plan becomes law on July 1 unless the City Council votes to reject it.
The April 30 Salary Commission report indicates that the city has had difficulty filling the medical examiner's post since Kanthi De Alwis retired at the end of last October.
The commission "finds that difficulty in finding a qualified licensed pathologist has contributed to retention and recruiting issues for the medical examiner position." Further, "there may be a lack of qualified candidates for a medical examiner because of its unique qualifications requirements, including those required under the charter."
The Honolulu City Charter calls for the medical examiner to be appointed by the mayor. Both the medical examiner and any deputy medical examiners "shall be pathologists and licensed physicians and shall possess such additional licenses and certifications as state law may from time to time prescribe as qualifications for the performance of autopsies."
If the recommendations become law, it would be the second straight year that the salaries of most other top city officials will stay the same.
The mayor and council members last got a raise from the 2008 commission, which increased their pay 6.5 percent that year. The managing director, deputy managing director and department heads also last got a pay raise in 2008, when their salaries went up 5 percent.
Bill Brennan, spokesman for Mayor Mufi Hannemann, noted that the mayor and his Cabinet took voluntary 5 percent pay cuts for the current year and will do so again come July 1.
City Council Chairman Todd Apo's legislative budget calls for council members to take 5 percent off of their own paychecks beginning July 1.
The city's unionized workers belonging to the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the United Public Workers Unit 1 have agreed to take two unpaid furlough Fridays each month beginning July 1, a pay cut of between 8 and 9 percent.
Council Budget Chairman Nestor Garcia said he supports the Salary Commission's decision to hold the line on the pay of elected officials.
David Akina, chairman of the Salary Commission, could not be reached for comment yesterday. The commission began meeting in February.