Chief Medical Examiner resigns; appointed as interim in connection with a criminal investigation

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A sign for the Nueces County Medical Examiner’s Office at 2610 Hospital Blvd. in Corpus Christi, is pictured March 18, 2022.

A week after he was arrested following a months-long investigation into his office, Nueces County commissioners voted to accept the resignation of chief medical examiner Dr. Adel Shaker, effective Wednesday.

The commissioners at a special meeting on Tuesday then appointed Shaker’s predecessor, Dr Ray Fernandez, as acting chief medical examiner until a replacement takes the reins.

Blender announcement his retirement in February. It came weeks after he fired his deputy chief medical examiner, Dr. Sandra Lyden, who was accused of practicing medicine without the proper license from the Texas Medical Board.

The charge, which arose in January when the results of an autopsy performed by Lyden were questioned, sparked an investigation into the medical examiner’s office by the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office and the Texas Rangers.

After: Affidavit: Shaker, County Employees Knew Former Assistant Medical Examiner Was Unlicensed

Shaker’s lawyer, Chris Gale, told the commissioners during the meeting’s public comment period that Shaker intended to work until his retirement – which the commissioners voted to accept in February – for help the office move into a new direction.

Gale was not immediately available for comment after the commissioners voted to accept Shaker’s resignation on Tuesday night.

Commissioners voted for county officials to negotiate with Fernandez, who has held a part-time position with the Nueces County Medical Examiner’s Office since retiring as chief medical examiner in 2020, about of his compensation while in that position. This will be presented to the court for consideration at its regular meeting next week.

The commissioners filed until next week a discussion of the county’s director of human resources, who was allegedly aware that Lyden was not fired, according to an affidavit of arrest signed by the investigating Ranger.

Shaker has worked in the medical examiner’s office since 2014 and was promoted to chief medical examiner in 2019, according to county human resources documents obtained by the Caller-Times.

The Commissioners at their last regular meeting voted unanimously to offer the post of Chief Medical Examiner to Dr. Timothy Fagen, an employee of the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office in Austin who practiced medicine in the United States for 17 years.

Whether Fagen accepted the offer was not discussed at Tuesday’s meeting.

Charges against Shaker and Lyden are pending

The court’s decision to appoint Fernandez comes as a months-long criminal investigation into the Nueces County Medical Examiner’s Office resulted in the Stop of Shaker and Lyden’s second arrest last week.

Nueces County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Adel Shaker was arrested by the Texas Rangers on Tuesday, April 12, 2022.

Nueces County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Adel Shaker was arrested by the Texas Rangers on Tuesday, April 12, 2022.

Gale said Lyden is not required by law to have a license to practice in Texas. This is only required for chief medical examiners, not their deputy chiefs, he said.

“Dr. Shaker hasn’t been charged with anything. All you have is a charge against him. When you look at the affidavit in support of arrest in this case, the entire The affidavit is about Dr. Lyden’s license, and all we can say is that it was a pointless thing,” Gale said. “Whether someone didn’t get the license or not is just irrelevant. You don’t have to have one. So anyone who remains concerned about it is on the wrong track.”

A sworn arrest affidavit written by the Ranger and obtained by the Caller-Times argues that Shaker criminally delegated authority to a physician, Lyden, knowing the act was in violation of the Texas Occupations Code. This violation stems from his knowledge that Lyden was not fired, according to the affidavit.

that of the Rangers investigation argues that Shaker knowingly misled others in the county, going so far as to produce a fake temporary provisional license number for Lyden. The Ranger was unable to verify that six-digit license number on the Texas Medical Board’s website, according to the affidavit.

After: Affidavit: Shaker, County Employees Knew Former Assistant Medical Examiner Was Unlicensed

Shaker was arrested on a warrant charging him with 17 counts of practicing medicine in violation of that code on April 12.

Lyden was stopped March 7 on a warrant accusing him of falsifying a government record with intent to defraud or cause harm. That charge stemmed from the fact that Lyden allegedly lied on his license application with the Texas Medical Board, according to an affidavit of arrest.

Dr. Sandra Lyden, the former Nueces County Deputy Chief Medical Examiner, was arrested by officials from the Nueces County District Attorney's Office on Monday, March 7, 2022.

Dr. Sandra Lyden, former Nueces County Deputy Chief Medical Examiner, was arrested by officials from the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office on Monday, March 7, 2022.

Lyden was stopped a second time the same day, Shaker was arrested. She was charged with 14 counts of practicing medicine without a license causing financial harm, six counts of falsifying a government record with intent to defraud or harm and one count misrepresentation regarding the right to practice medicine.

She remained in the Nueces County jail Tuesday afternoon, according to jail staff. His bond is $550,000.

Commissioners delay discussion of employee named in affidavit

The commissioners on Tuesday considered taking action regarding an employee named in one of the Ranger affidavits.

The Ranger wrote that Shaker and two county employees — director of human resources Julie Guerra and a medical examiner’s office employee — knew Lyden was unlicensed during his investigation.

The Caller-Times is not naming the second employee because it was not immediately clear if he was being disciplined.

Nueces County Director of Human Resources Julie Guerra sits with Attorney Stephen Byrne during the Nueces County Commissioners Court meeting in Corpus Christi, Texas on April 19, 2022.

Nueces County Director of Human Resources Julie Guerra sits with Attorney Stephen Byrne during the Nueces County Commissioners Court meeting in Corpus Christi, Texas on April 19, 2022.

According to the affidavit, Guerra and the employee knew Lyden was unlicensed because she had been hired and employed for 40 days — performing autopsies for 15 of those days — without a medical license on file at the medical examiner’s office. or the human resources department.

Prior to the commissioners discussing the matter, during the public comment period, Nueces County Tax Assessor/Collector Kevin Kieschnick, Sheriff JC Hooper, Precinct 3 Constable Jimmy Rivera, Judge Justice of the Peace Joe Benavides and Justice of the Peace Robert Gonzalez came to Guerra’s defense.

The speakers, who all run offices and departments of varying sizes, told the commissioners that department heads, not the director of human resources, are solely responsible for hiring the right employees.

“I’m going to defend someone who is doing their job wonderfully,” Rivera, speaking of Guerra, told the commissioners.

The Commissioners finally decided to postpone the item to the next meeting.

It was not immediately clear whether the allegations against the second employee would also be discussed.

Chase Rogers covers local government and industry in South Texas. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @chasedrogers. You can support local journalism with a Caller-Times subscription.

This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: Chief Medical Examiner resigns; appointed as interim during investigation

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