Medical examiner asks
commissioners for a 46 percent pay hike
By Jessica Savage
Corpus Christi Caller Times
Posted November 29, 2010 at 7:50 p.m., updated November 29, 2010 at 7:50 p.m.
Fernandez is asking commissioners for a $75,000 raise.CORPUS CHRISTI — The
county’s highest paid employee is asking for a 46 percent raise so he can earn a
salary competitive with others in his field.
Nueces County Chief Medical Examiner Ray Fernandez makes $163,634 a year
performing autopsies. He also receives a $1,400 car allowance and 40 percent in commission from autopsies requested by other counties.
Fernandez is asking for a $75,000 raise this year, or a 46 percent raise, and a
$20,000 pay boost over the next three years to bring his pay on par with other
“It’s not going to be an overnight process,” he said. “It will probably take
Even if he receives the proposed raise, Fernandez won’t be making what other
counties pay their chief medical examiners. Lubbock County, which is smaller
than Nueces County, pays $450,000 a year. The average pay for Harris, Travis and
Bexar counties, which are larger than Nueces County, is $257,711.
With the raise this year, Fernandez would make $238,634 and receive a $5,000 car
Nationwide the shortage of pathologists has caught the attention of those who
rely on their skills to solve crimes. The demand puts Fernandez in a good
position for a raise, which County Judge Loyd Neal said he supports.
“He’s been a very good medical examiner and has a great reputation, so I have no
problem bringing this to court,” Neal said. “We don’t want to lose him. He is
well respected in the courts and it would affect the outcome of so many cases
where he is rendering the opinion.”
Fernandez said he has completed about 16 years of school and training after high
“It’s very comparable to the time a heart surgeon might put in,” he said.
Earlier this year, commissioners approved a $115.2 million budget, which called
for $1.4 million in cuts to keep the tax rate at 35.5 cents per $100 valuation,
the same as last year. At the time, Neal instructed commissioners to watch their
spending as next year could require additional cuts.
Neal said money to pay for Fernandez’s salary increase could come from $144,000
that was set aside to pay for county jail doctor William Flores. Flores canceled
that contract early in the fiscal year, so the item was still included in this
year’s budget, Neal said.
Fernandez has worked for the county since 2003. He and a part-time physician,
who works one week a month, perform an average of 500 autopsies a year. About
100 of those are requested by nearby counties that don’t employee a medical
examiner. Fernandez charges those counties from $1,500 to $3,000 per autopsy,
depending upon the type of autopsy or lab tests.