HUNTSVILLE — Scott County Mayor Dale Perdue has formally recommended the removal of Dr. Trent Cross as the county’s medical examiner.
Perdue’s recommendation was delivered in writing to Scott County Commission Monday evening, as commissioners gathered for their monthly committee meetings. It followed a decision by the Tennessee Department of Health’s to place Cross’s medical license on probation after finding that he was guilty of “unprofessional, dishonorable or unethical conduct.”
Specifically, the Department of Health’s action against Cross stemmed from his arrest last summer at a Sevier County campground, where he was accused of firing a handgun amid a late-night domestic dispute. He later pleaded guilty to reduced charges and was granted judicial diversion.
A second incident, reported to the Department of Health, involved what officials described as inappropriate conversations between Cross and an unidentified patient.
In response, the Department of Health placed Cross’s medical license on probation with terms to run concurrent of the criminal probation levied by a criminal court in Sevier County, while also requiring him to obtain 10 hours of continuing education “in the area of boundaries” and assessing $2,000 in civil penalties.
As a result of that finding, Perdue on Monday submitted a letter to commissioners, which he read aloud, saying that the recommendation was based upon the finding by the Department of Health “that Dr. Cross has engaged in unprofessional, dishonorable or unethical conduct which has resulted in criminal prosecution, civil penalties assessed against him and placing his medical license in probation status.”
Cross’s tenure as the county’s medical examiner has been an embattled one since the state comptroller’s office ruled last year that his appointment was in violation of a state law that prohibits county commissioners from serving in a salaried role as medical examiner. That led to a recommendation from Perdue in January that Cross be removed as the county’s medical examiner. However, Cross circumvented that move by resigning his seat on County Commission — which enabled him to remain in place as the county’s medical examiner.
Cross, who owns an Oneida medical practice, was elected to County Commission from the 5th District in 2014 as part of sweeping changes to the 14-member legislative body. He was appointed as the county’s medical examiner upon the death of Dr. Maxwell Huff, when he was the only physician to express an interest in the vacant position. His appointment, approved by County Commission, was contingent upon his agreement to forego salary as a way to appease the comptroller’s office.
In August 2016, however, the Budget Committee — which Cross chaired — reinstated the medical examiner’s $500 monthly salary without discussion before the full County Commission, which ultimately approved the budget. That drew scrutiny from the comptroller’s office in last year’s audit.
Two weeks after Perdue recommended that Cross be removed as medical examiner, Cross submitted his letter of resignation from County Commission. Former commissioner Paul Strunk was appointed to replace him.
As a first-term commissioner, Cross quickly rose to prominence on the legislative body, obtaining chairmanship of the Commission’s powerful Intergovernmental Committee and, later, its Budget Committee.
Cross sparred with Perdue early in his tenure as commissioner, but later was recommended by the mayor to fill the medical examiner’s role.
By statute, the Commission has 90 days to consider Perdue’s recommendation. However, Perdue’s letter to commissioners requested that they take action on the recommendation at their next meeting, which will take place May 21.