Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
Office sought: Lake Coroner
Family: Married with three children.
Occupation: Lake County Sheriff's Office - Officer, Court Security Division
Education: College Education in Criminal Justice and Fire Science. Over 400 Hours specialized training in the field of Medicolegal death investigations, various categories (Evidence, Crime Scene investigations, Crash reconstruction, etc.)
Civic involvement: Lake County Young Republicans
Elected offices held: Precinct Committeeman, Antioch Township, 2011 to present
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
As I stated during the primary election, one issue that I am passionate about is the level of service that the Office of Coroner provides to the citizens of Lake County. The death of a loved one is the worst possible time in a person's life. The death investigation of a person's loved one must be handled in a compassionate, professional and timely manner. This minimizes the hardship placed on the family, without sacrificing the thoroughness of a competent investigation. Additionally, the Office of Coroner should be at the forefront of many public awareness initiatives. As Coroner, I will partner with various non-for-profit organizations throughout the county, to enhance public awareness on subjects such as local substance abuse issues, and the increase in texting and driving related fatalities, to name a couple.
Key Issue 2
Over the course of the last five plus years, relationships between the Office of Coroner and other agencies have been strained. It is imperative that the Coroner's Office, while conducting an independent investigation, cooperate and be capable of sharing information with other investigative agencies. As Coroner, I will focus efforts on rebuilding and strengthening the cooperative efforts between the office and these agencies including Police, Fire, Department of Public Health, Hospitals, Nursing Homes and Funeral Homes. While serving as the Chief Deputy Coroner, I had an impeccable record and reputation as a liaison between the Coroner's Office and these other agencies, organizations (for example the Gift of Hope, Illinois organ and tissue donor network) and businesses.
Key Issue 3
It is imperative that the Office of Coroner eliminate over spending and implement cost saving measures. In the past few years, as other county departments have undergone hiring and pay freezes, the Coroner's Office has continued to expand and overspend on its budget. An internal staffing and scheduling audit must occur to assure that overtime expenditure is kept to a minimum. As Coroner, I will implement scheduling changes to assure overtime is not a large over expenditure as it has been in the past. Further, I will work with other county departments as well as Coroner's in other counties to assure we are obtaining the best possible pricing on equipment and supplies. I have the experience to do this, having worked with the Office of Budget Management in the past, balancing the Coroner's budget.
Do you have the temperament to do this job and interact with the public in times of public emergency or personal grief? Please explain.
I do have the temperament that is necessary to be a successful Coroner. I have worked in the field during times of emergency when employed ten years as a firefighter/paramedic, and I also served our communities as a Deputy Coroner for seven years. I don't view the Office of Coroner as a "job", I believe one should possess a passion to serve the public in order to be the Coroner. As stated before, the Coroner is interacting with people at the worst time in their lives. The Coroner must be compassionate, a person of integrity and someone who genuinely cares. Much unlike a doctor notifying someone that a family member has past away in the hospital, a controlled setting where there is a counselor at the ready, the Coroner is often times called to notify someone of a sudden death, out in the field. It is not something to take lightly, and speaking from experience (as I have made many of these notifications) the Coroner and their deputies are often the one's to sit and hold the hand of the grieving loved one.
Why are you more qualified than your opponent for the job?
I am more qualified than my opponent because of my education and work experience. I have formal education in criminal justice and served our community as a firefighter/paramedic as well as a Deputy Coroner. My education and experience fits in line with that the Coroner is - the Medico-legal death investigator. Having served in the Office of Coroner for seven years, I have done the job of those I will be in charge of. I have first hand knowledge of the hurdles and hardships they may face, as I have been there. I have hundreds of hours of specialized training in the field of medico-legal death investigations including the proper handling and storage of evidence, Homicide investigations, crash investigations and many others. This position is a position that I have passion for, to provide a specialized service to my fellow Lake County residents.
Should the coroner?s office exist, or should the county adopt a medical examiner system? Why or why not?
The Coroner's Office should exist and I do not believe that the County should adopt (would need to pass via referendum)the medical examiner system. First and foremost to implement a medical examiner system, an appointed position, you take the power away from the citizens to have their voice heard. I think most would agree, if the Coroner, or any elected official for that matter, is not fulfilling their responsibility, the public should be able to work towards having that individual removed from office. In the case of a medical examiner (at least the only one in the state) he or she is appointed by a board, and that is to who they are then responsible, not the citizen. Secondly, the medical examiner system is more of an expense than the Coroner's Office. Studies year after year have shown that it is not cost effective to change a Coroner's Office to a medical examiner system. Proponents of the medical examiner system, such as my opponent, make the public believe that they get a higher level of service with a medical examiner, when in fact, under both systems, only Forensic Pathologists can perform autopsies. My opponent stresses the fact that he is a pathologist, however he is not a Forensic Pathologist and therefore is not certified to perform Forensic autopsies.
What, if any, new ethics-related rules are needed for the coroner?s office?
I believe as a matter of consistency, the Coroner's Office should be subject to and strictly adhere to the ethics policies of Lake County as a whole. Integrity has been an issue the Office of Coroner has struggled with over past years. I believe that with the proper leadership, a set of comprehensive policies and procedures as well as known expectations, the office would no longer face this struggle. For example, as Coroner I will reinstate the Coroner's Inquest proceedings for non-natural deaths. These proceedings were abandoned during the Dr. Keller administration and turned into closed door meetings, excluding other agencies as well as family members of the deceased. I believe that these proceedings, being heard in front of a jury, where the family may attend, add a level of transparency that is necessary to enhance public trust in the system.
Does the coroner need to be a medical doctor? Why or why not? Please explain in detail.
No. As set forth in the Illinois Compiled Statue, the Coroner does not need to be a physician / medical doctor and in fact the statue reads "Each coroner shall be conservator of the peace in his county, and, in the performance of his duties as such, shall have the same powers as the sheriff" (55 ILCS 5/3-3007). This is a misconception that I have faced time and time again throughout my campaign. Again, the Coroner is the administrator of an investigative office. Autopsies are performed, and can only be performed by Forensic Pathologists, who are contracted through the county. A Coroner who is a Forensic Pathologist, can not by law, perform autopsies in his/her own county. As our county, and others have seen, having a physician serve as coroner opens the door for impropriety. In 2004 a physician was elected to the seat of Coroner, and before he could complete his second four year term, he was indicted on felony charges stemming from his acting as both a physician and the coroner. When the office was then taken over by the Sheriff, it was described as a "ship out of control". We, the people of Lake County, deserve better. I will take great honor in serving as your next Lake County Coroner.