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posted: 8/5/2010 12:01 AM

Kane voters won't see coroner question on ballot, yet

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Kane County will continue to have an elected coroner at least until next spring.

County board members decided Wednesday they need more information about the costs of switching to an appointed coroner or medical examiner before asking voters to approve the change.

Discussion of switching from an elected coroner to one appointed by the board began in May after the indictment of Coroner Chuck West on official misconduct charges.

West has refused to take a leave of absence while the case is pending, despite repeated calls to do so by County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay.

McConnaughay renewed that call Wednesday, but agreed that more study is needed before deciding what to do next.

With no clear direction about what would replace the elected coroner, she said, it is impossible to tell voters how much a change would cost.

"If you decided you're going to a full-time medical examiner, that's a very, very expensive way to go," she said. "Short of knowing if there's a cost savings, people might be reluctant to know if they should vote for it or not."

The county board has not gone far enough in its examination to decide if a medical examiner or appointed coroner is what they'd ultimately like to see in the office.

Any appointed system would give the county board the power to fire the medical examiner or coroner at any point. They do not have that option with an elected coroner, like West.

Not all board members believe the issue needs more studying. Board member John Fahy said the problem isn't having an elected coroner, it's Chuck West.

"While the current coroner, as an elected official, may be having some problems, it's not the system that's having the problem," Fahy said. "We're not sure, but it's probably going to cost us more money to switch systems right now. I don't think this is the economic time to gamble with switching systems. I think the system is working. It will be fixed either through an election or through the court system."

The board assigned its Judicial and Public Safety Committee the job of dissecting the costs of appointing a coroner or medical examiner. McConnaughay said she hoped the committee would finish its examination in time to have a referendum on the spring ballot.