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updated: 2/16/2012 4:33 PM

Lake coroner candidates talk about improving the office

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  • Dr. Thomas Rudd

      Dr. Thomas Rudd

  • Steve Newton

      Steve Newton

  • Artis Yancey

      Artis Yancey

  • Howard Cooper

      Howard Cooper

  • Video: Coroner debate, Part 1

  • Video: Coroner debate, part 2

 
 

Shortly after former Lake County Coroner Richard Keller was ousted from that position as part of a criminal plea deal last year, his office was called a "ship out of control."

It was Sheriff Mark Curran -- who was temporarily put in charge of the office after Keller's resignation -- who publicly made that accusation.

Nearly a year has passed since then. With the March 20 primary election approaching, the four candidates who want to be the county's next coroner are sharing their opinions on how the office should be improved.

Two Democrats and two Republicans are running for the job.

The Democrats are incumbent Artis Yancey, who was appointed to the post last year, and Dr. Thomas Rudd. The Republicans are Steve Newton and Howard Cooper.

The winners of each partisan primary will face off in the November general election.

The Daily Herald asked candidates about how to improve the office, as well as other issues, in recent questionnaires.

Rudd, a physician, said he would ensure deputy coroners have adequate training and education so they can do their jobs "efficiently, accurately and economically."

He also said the office should work toward national standards for death investigations. If elected, he said he will push the staff to be certified by the National Association of Medical Examiners and the American Board of Medical-Legal Death Investigators.

Yancey, a former police chief, said the administration of the office should be seen as "a work in progress."

"Our daily view is a forward-thinking one that allows our goals and objectives to be redefined when needed," he said. "This prevents stagnation of ideals and allows reassessments of our strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats."

Although asked for specific areas that need improvement, Yancey did not cite any.

Cooper, a dentist, complained that "far too many people have had negative dealings with the coroner's office." He said employees need to remember people need compassion and respect.

"We need to change the public's perception of the office by example," Cooper said.

Newton, a court security officer who formerly served as a chief deputy coroner, said he's heard from firefighters, police officers and other professionals that the office has become less responsive and cooperative in recent years.

"The coroner's office should be a service-driven office, providing thorough, complete and comprehensive death investigations in a timely manner," Newton said.

Police officers and other professionals shouldn't have to wait hours for responses from the office, he said, and families should not have to wait months for death certificates.

Newton also pledged to conduct operations with compassion and dignity and to improve the "public awareness" of the office.

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