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Doctor being considered as Oklahoma's chief medical examiner pleaded guilty to ethics violations

The Board of Medicolegal Investigations will meet today to consider hiring Dr. William A. Cox as Oklahoma's chief medical examiner despite his criminal past in Ohio.
BY NOLAN CLAY Modified: December 16, 2010 at 6:16 am •  Published: December 16, 2010

A pathologist who pleaded guilty in 1996 to criminal ethics violations is the leading candidate to become Oklahoma's next chief medical examiner.

The board that oversees the medical examiner's office meets at 1 p.m. today to consider hiring Dr. William A. Cox despite his criminal past in Ohio.

He is believed to be the only current candidate for the position, which pays more than $200,000 a year.

Cox, 69, is now Rhode Island's acting chief medical examiner, records show. He came under investigation for ethical violations when he was the county coroner in Summit County, Ohio.

He resigned in February 1996 after about 13 years in the position.

Cox was accused in the criminal case of personally profiting from autopsies done in Summit County facilities for outside counties.

Cox also was accused of hiding that income from the Ohio Ethics Commission on financial disclosure forms required of public officials.

He eventually pleaded guilty to nine misdemeanors. He agreed to pay $138,000 in restitution to the county, records show. He also was put on probation and ordered to spend 30 days at a halfway house and complete 200 hours of community service, records show.

The Ohio State Medical Board reprimanded him in 1997.

He has continued to perform autopsies at other places. In 2005, he told the Columbus Dispatch, an Ohio newspaper, “I don't believe that what occurred … would have any bearing at all on what my findings are as far as doing an autopsy or what I'd say on the stand.”

Cox was traveling to Oklahoma and could not be reached for comment Wednesday. He said in November 1996, after pleading guilty, that he does not believe he intentionally violated the law because he had followed legal advice.

The Board of Medicolegal Investigations has had difficulty finding a new chief medical examiner since firing Dr. Collie Trant in February.

The board in September hired Philip Keen, an Arizona doctor, but later withdrew the job offer when a background check turned up issues in his past. The board then offered the job to Andrew Sibley, a pathologist who has worked in the medical examiner's Tulsa office for more than 10 years. Sibley last month turned the job down.

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