Medical Examiner resigns with hundreds of reports pending

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — After six years on the job, the Chief Medical Examiner in Honolulu is resigning. But we learn Dr. Christopher Happy is leaving behind hundreds of incomplete autopsy reports.

The city says Dr. Happy is resigning from his post effective October 31st. But this comes after the Honolulu City Council Chair told us that the administration wanted to terminate him.

Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi tells us she received complaints from staff about Dr. Christopher Happy after he started the job.

“He is head of the office and they felt that he should be in there more and I had people call me, constituents or other people, who have said we are waiting for an autopsy report and it’s taking so long,” said Kobayashi.

According to the city, Dr. Happy completed 751 reports in the last three years between 10/17/16 and 10/17/19. But he has 896 pending reports.

Kobayashi recalls families not getting the closure they needed.

“It’s very hard for them to move on without the autopsy report, in some cases, and so they are not able to collect on insurance or whatever they have to do, whatever financial matters have to be settled,” said Kobayashi.

Councilwoman Kymberly Pine says:

“We know that Dr. Happy has requested additional funding for staff and equipment for a long time. He only recently got another doctor, but he is still short-staffed. His concerns were expressed in budget meetings years ago.”

In his resignation letter, Dr. Happy says:
“The Office has gone through many changes in the past 6 years and is now able to receive accreditation from the National Association of Medical Examiners…Although I regret that I will not be able to see the Office through this process, I must return home to Los Angeles to attend to a family member’s illness.”

But City Council Chair Ikaika Anderson tells us he was notified about the administration’s intent to terminate the Chief Medical Examiner and that there was cause for dismissal. The City Charter requires there be a hearing to address the reason why, but there won’t be one because Dr. Happy is resigning.

“It is a very highly paid position I think the highest in the city, so I think the taxpayers deserve to know the facts,” said Kobayashi.

The City administration said:
“Dr. Happy submitted a letter of resignation as the Honolulu Chief Medical Examiner, effective Oct. 31, 2019. Dr. Happy came on board in late 2013 and helped to make improvements to the office, including the recruitment of other certified medical examiners. We want to thank him for his service and wish him well as he pursues future opportunities. Dr. Masahiko Kobayashi, Deputy Chief Medical Examiner, will serve as Acting Chief Medical Examiner.”

It took the city about 3 years to fill the Chief Medical Examiner job after Dr. Kanthi De Alwis retired. In a statement she tells us:
“The city should not have a difficult time finding a replacement, because the salary is competitive with other qualified medical examiners on the mainland.”

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