Friday, November 14, 2014

UPDATE: Coroner Announces Retirement, Supes Push Toward Consolidation

Posted By on Fri, Nov 14, 2014 at 3:26 PM

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The board of supervisors voted unanimously today to begin the process of consolidating the sheriff’s office and coroner’s office. The board asked the county administrative officer to draft an ordinance that would fold the employees and functions of the coroner’s office into the sheriff’s department, and create one elected sheriff/coroner position.

Humboldt County has had an independently elected coroner since 1905, and has mulled consolidation at least four times in the last 35 years, according to a  staff report . The move could potentially help cash-strapped and overworked coroner’s office employees.

Coroner Dave Parris (who’s retiring in January) and Sheriff Mike Downey have expressed support for the consolidation, with Downey saying that he would not accept a temporary appointment to the coroner position.

From the report:
Of California's 58 counties, 48 will have a combined Sheriff-Coroner as of January 2015, including all of the counties adjacent to Humboldt. In fact, since the last time the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors considered this question—in 2009—two additional counties (Fresno and Marin) have voted to combine a formerly separate Coroner's Office into a consolidated Sheriff-Coroner. Of the 10 remaining counties, five have an office of Medical Examiner as permitted under Government Code Section 24010. This leaves only four counties besides Humboldt with a separate Coroner's Office not headed by a physician. In 10 of the counties having a consolidated Sheriff-Coroner, that office also includes the Public Administrator function.

Humboldt County Coroner Dave Parris announced his retirement today, just several months after being re-elected. He will leave the position at the end of January.

In his announcement, Parris said the coroner's office is severely underfunded and recommended that the office be consolidated with the sheriff's office, echoing problems the Journal wrote about here.

Parris' letter:

Effective January 30, 2015, I will retire from my position as the Humboldt County Coroner/Public Administrator. Although elected by the citizens of Humboldt County for a second term in June of this year, it is with considerable thought that I make this decision.

Over the last few years, the office has struggled with a lack of sufficient employees and equipment to meet the challenge of providing a professional work environment for its employees and service to the community that it deserves. For many years the office has struggled with just three deputy coroners, one administrative support person and the coroner to meet the increasing and demanding work load. Although the coroner has brought the need for additional employees to the attention of the board of supervisors, the allocated budget is not sufficient to meet the need.

Over the last several months, county staff to include the County Administrative Officer, Humboldt County Sheriff and the Coroner have discussed several options to resolving this issue.

It will be my recommendation to the Board of Supervisors that the Office of Coroner be consolidated with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. In the coming weeks, the Board will hear the recommendations of staff and decide the future of the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office. I will be assisting in providing the Board of Supervisors with any assistance necessary in their decision.

I want to thank the local media for our positive and understanding relationship over the years. After thirty seven years in public service, I appreciate all the relationships I have obtained which has made this job much easier. I look forward to spending much more time with my family and friends in the future.

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Grant Scott-Goforth

Grant Scott-Goforth has been an assistant editor and staff writer for The Journal since 2013.

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