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Bid for full six years for new Suffolk M.E. raises legal issue

A Suffolk legislative committee unanimously approved a resolution

A Suffolk legislative committee unanimously approved a resolution naming Dr. Michael J. Caplan the county's chief medical examiner after he promised to take a hands-on role and stay for his full six-year term. (Credit: Sarah Bates Pack)

County Executive Steve Bellone may have named Dr. Michael Caplan as his new $250,000 a year medical examiner, but the resolution the administration filed may have given him a term that is 17 months more than legally allowed.

The legislative resolution, which will come up in committee this week, gives Caplan a six year term that would start July 1 and end June 30, 2020. However under the state public officers law, Caplan is only eligible to finish the remainder of the six year term of his predcessor $172,500 a year Dr. Yyvonne Milewski that ends Jan. 31, 2019.

The county attorney’s office, which drafted the Caplan resolution, earlier this year prepared a similar appointment resolution for then acting Social Services Commissioner John O’Neill, but he was able to get a full six year term because there’s a second state law that supercedees the Public Officers Law, but the measure only affects the top welfare official.

However, County Attorney Dennis Brown said Suffolk, as a county with its own charter, simply lists medical examiner as a job with a six year term, and makes no mention of what occurs with vacancies. He said since questions are being raised, the administration is reviewing whether to seek a charter amendment from the county legislature to permit the medical examiner vacancy to be filled with a full six year term.
 

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