Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Coroner Still Independent (For Now)

Posted By on Tue, Mar 3, 2009 at 10:52 AM

With Supervisor Jill Duffy absent, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors moments ago deadlocked over the question of whether to merge the coroner's office with the sheriff's office. Supervisor Bonnie Neely and Clif Clendenen supported the motion; Supervisors Jimmy Smith and Mark Lovelace opposed it.

The item will return to the board at a later date.

The idea of merging the two offices resurfaced after the retirement of longtime County Coroner Frank Jager, who was since elected to the Eureka City Council. Proponents argue that the move would save the county money, since staff in each of the offices could be cross-trained.

However, the proposal has been controversial. The Times-Standard has strongly editorialized against it, arguing that the office's investigatory independence is a crucial element of public trust in the criminal justice system. Most of the speakers who addressed the board this morning agreed with that position.

"I think that we may be losing an elected position that I have every confidence in," said Supervisor Jimmy Smith.

Link to the staff report on coroner-sheriff consolidation (.pdf).

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