Dr. Joshua A. Perper, the chief medical examiner of Allegheny County, Pa., has agreed to become head of the overburdened and often controversial Los Angeles County coroner's office, The Times learned Wednesday.
Perper, 58, of Pittsburgh, who has served in his current post since 1981, will assume his new, $125,000-a-year job May 1, Los Angeles County Chief Administrative Officer Richard B. Dixon confirmed.
Perper, a Romanian native who attended medical school in Israel, said he hopes to bring a "quiet, efficient and professional" manner to the Los Angeles office, which was vacated by the resignation last summer of Ronald N. Kornblum.
"The office is not, by nature, controversial," Perper said in a telephone interview from his home. "I prefer to work in a quiet, non-controversial way."
An audit in 1990 found that the growing number of homicides in Los Angeles County was overwhelming the coroner's office, leading to a breakdown in controls, sanitary standards and protection of personal property.
In an effort to remedy some of those problems, the county Board of Supervisors voted in July to split the task of running the office into two positions--one an administrative manager, the other a forensic pathologist.
After an exhaustive nationwide search that included several-dozen candidates, Perper was chosen as the chief pathologist because of his high qualifications and reputation for running an efficient, well-respected coroner's office in the Pittsburgh area, Dixon said.
"He clearly appealed to the board because of that reputation and because, in interviews, he exhibited an interest in bringing new and innovative and creative techniques and thoughts to the problems of our medical examiner's office," Dixon said.
The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in closed session at least a week ago to offer the job to Perper, who accepted the position earlier this week, Dixon said. The decision was to be made public today with the publication of the agenda for next Tuesday's Board meeting, at which time the supervisors are expected to formally approve Perper's hiring.
Perper, who makes $64,000 a year as the Allegheny County coroner, oversees an office that was also in turmoil when he took over nine years ago. He survived a political feud with his predecessor and was once involved in a televised shoving match with another colleague during a dispute over control of the office.
Last year, the county, which includes most of metropolitan Pittsburgh, recorded 67 homicides. By contrast, in 1990, Los Angeles County had nearly 10 times that many.
"The Los Angeles job represents a challenge that I'm willing to take," Perper said.
Born in Bucharest, Perper moved to Israel as a young man and earned his medical degree at the Hebrew University Medical School in Jerusalem. He also earned a law degree from the same university.
He immigrated to the United States in 1967 and earned a master's degree in forensic pathology from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He is a clinical professor of pathology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, a clinical professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health and professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School.
He also is currently serving as chairman of the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine, which licenses physicians in the state.