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updated: 9/21/2012 4:32 PM

Patrick O'Neil: Candidate Profile

Will Coroner (Democrat)

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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.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A

 

Bio

City: Lockport

Website: http://www.patoneil.com

Office sought: Will Coroner

Age: 47

Family: Married 14 years Wife: Jennifer (Sitar) Daughter - Shae, 12 yrs. Son - Ryan, 9 yrs.

Occupation: Will County Coroner for 20 years

Education: 1986 graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale - Mortuary Science Diplomat & Board Certified Fellow with the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators Certified Medical Investigator with the American College of Forensic Examiners

Civic involvement: Old Timers Baseball Association Irish American Society of the County of Will

Elected offices held: Will County Coroner since 1992

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

In this time of economic uncertainity, I will continue to tighten our belts and sustain a fiscally responsible office. I have been and will continue to be a great steward of taxpayer dollars.

Key Issue 2

I will continue to educate our county's youth and parents of the dangers of drug and alcohol use. I have spoken at a wide variety of community school forums of the ever increasing heroin epidemic in Will County. I am a founding member of Will County HELPS (Heroin Education Leads to Preventative Solutions).

Key Issue 3

I continue to enhance our relationships with other agencies and build on our culture of professionalism with the citizens of Will County. This includes the formation of a coroner's cold case squad where two (2) part-time retired police officers are investigating the unknown identities of 11 skeletal remains.

Questions & Answers

Does the office do much in the way of comforting crime victims? families? Please explain. If not, should that be a role of the coroner?s office?

The coroner's office staff communicates with all the victims' families on a daily basis. Many times the coroner/deputy coroners are the first to speak with the victims' families upon notification of the death. As such, they need to provide a gentle comfort while informing them of the known facts and circumstances surrounding the incident that caused the death of their loved one, while at the same time they need to gather information about the deceased to establish a timetable previous to death to assist in the how and why the death happened. Before I was elected coroner in 1992 I was a funeral director trained in talking and comforting families at a time of extreme loss. Continuing education on how to communicate and assist families during a difficult time and my background as a funeral director has helped me in my position as coroner. The deputy coroners also have funeral director or law enforcement background that has aided them in their job performance.

Does the coroner need to be a medical doctor? Why or why not? Please explain in detail.

Illinois has two (2) different death investigation systems; coroner system and medical examiner system. The medical examiner system is largely based on population and case volume, whereas, it is more cost effective to employ a board certified forensic pathologist and have a staff of forensic pathologists. Cook County is the only county in Illinois with an appointed medical examiner. The other Illinois counties are coroner systems with an elected coroner that does not require a medical degree. However, I am a Diplomat and one of only ten Board Certified Fellows in the state of Illinois with the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators and I am a Certified Medical Investigator with the American College of Forensic Examiners. Additionally, I must complete continuing education training in order to remain in good standing with these boards; therefore, I have acquired over 600 hours of forensic educational training. Furthermore, the Will County Coroner's office contracts the services of two board certified forensic pathologists to perform autopsies and review medical records to provide the cause of death and assist in determining the manner of death. These independent pathologists are always available for consultation when needed. Will County does not, at this time, have the population or the case volume to justify the expense of a medical examiner system.

Assess the coroner?s budget. Are staffing and facilities adequate now and for the next four years? Keeping in mind the need to toe the line on spending, what, if anything, needs to be improved?

The coroner's budget is adequate at this time except the union employees contracted step increases are not being funded in the coroner's budget salary line by the county. The coroner's office is one of the smaller departments in the county and does not have the attrition of the bigger departments that can absorb the increases in other areas. Additionally, overtime is mandatory and is not being funded making it difficult for this office as we are a 24/7 office and need to respond when called. I opened Will County's first morgue in July 2002 and that facility is currently adequate. However, if the county has another population growth spurt, the administrative and morgue facilities should be combined. Under my administration we are constantly mindful of budget constraints, therefore, always seeking the best price on the supplies and equipment that we use. Additionally, we are always on the look-out for receiving donated equipment. For instance, we recently received a donated $80,000 digital x-ray machine from a local hospital that moved to a new location. This donation will eliminate the need to purchase and store x-ray film, chemicals, etc. All three (3) of the x-ray machines we received since opening the morgue in 2002 have been donated with a cost savings of $100,000. We also are continuously seeking grants. Over the past 9 years we have received over $12,500 in grant funding to help offset the cost of equipment. My administration also negotiated a intergovernmental agreement with the LaSalle County Coroner. This rental income has paid for the morgue - times three - saving even more money and adding money to the county treasury.

s the coroner?s office doing enough in terms of domestic violence outreach and suicide prevention? Please explain.

I provide domestic violence victim information for the annual Take Back the Night Vigil and March and participate in their annual vigil. This event brings community awareness to those who lost their lives due to domestic violence and provides a real ife message to everyone. My office administrator is a member and a past president of the Zonta Club of the Joliet Area which is a local club of an international service organization with a mission to advance the status of women with a focus on domestic violence issues. The coroner's office also assists grieving families due to violence to seek help from professionals, social workers and/or support groups to help them with their grief and loss. Providing statistics on the number and type of deaths investigated by the coroner is another measure of awareness that is included in the Coroner's Annual Report. The annual report also contains hotline information and signs to watch for. Keeping the public informed also serves as prevention.

With the coroner?s office being a statutory office with some autonomy from the county board, are you comfortable with the way budgeting is handled? Please explain.

The budgeting staff of the county executive's office does a great job of keeping us informed. However, the county board controls the bottom line. Currently, our concern revolves around funding of contracted union raises and providing sufficient overtime.

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