Gov. Rick Scott rejected a recommendation this week to reappoint the longtime South Florida medical examiner who made headlines after several high profile deaths, including model Anna Nicole Smith.
Dr. Joshua Perper said he was stunned when he learned Scott would not appoint him to another three-year term, saying he wished the governor's office had offered an explanation.
"I'm still baffled because the office of the governor didn't contact me before or after the decision to ask for another nomination," said Perper. "After 17 years this would be a courtesy act to call me and tell me what is the intention of the governor."
The Medical Examiners Commission recommended Perper continue his service, but Scott's office sent the chairman a letter Tuesday asking for other choices. Perper said the Broward County Commission also supported his reappointment, based on hundreds of positive questionnaires rating his performance from the state attorney, public defender and sheriff's office.
"Governor Scott wants to have options when choosing who will be the Medical Examiner going forward for Broward County. It's difficult to have options when only one name has been submitted," said Scott's spokesman Lane Wright.
Perper, a grandfatherly figure with a thick foreign accent, frequented national new shows after Smith, a 39-year-old former Playboy playmate, was found dead in her hotel room in 2007. Perper said he did not relish the publicity but always kept his door open to the media, at one point saying he'd given so many interviews, he felt he had a second job.
He later ruled her death an accidental overdose of the seldom prescribed sedative chloral hydrate and other medications. A link to Smith's autopsy report is still prominent on the agency's website.
Besides Smith, Perper has handled the autopsies of model Krissy Taylor, sister of supermodel Niki Taylor and Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler. In 2003, Perper determined that the diet supplement ephedra contributed to the heatstroke that killed Bechler, who collapsed during a spring training workout. That finding helped lead to the supplement being banned by the federal government.
Perper, a Romanian born widower who also holds a law degree, said he will retire in a few months.
In 2009, he classified Bernice Novack's death as an "unwitnessed fall" after she was found dead in her home. The 86-year-old, whose husband founded the Fountainbleau Hotel, suffered a broken jaw and police found blood smeared on her car and on walls in the house, but they concluded no crime was committed.
But Perper later ruled the death a homicide, a day after the woman's daughter-in-law was accused in open court of plotting the beating death. Narcy Novack has since been charged with arranging the deaths of Bernice and Ben Novack, so she could acquire the family's multimillion-dollar estate, according to prosecutors.