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posted: 10/19/2012 5:30 AM

Kane coroner hopefuls differ in experience, want to rebuild trust

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  • Tao Martinez, left, opposes Rob Russell for Kane County coroner in November.

    Tao Martinez, left, opposes Rob Russell for Kane County coroner in November.


On Nov. 6, voters will elect the first new Kane County Coroner in 12 years.

Both Republican Rob Russell and Democrat Tao Martinez agree that trust and integrity must be restored in the office, which had a cloud cast over it while a felony misconduct case against the late-coroner Chuck West was pending for two years.

Both candidates believe they are the right choice to rebuild the public's trust now that the criminal case stemming from a missing television is closed and a lawsuit filed by West's former second-in-command has been settled.

Russell, 41, of South Elgin, is a sergeant with the DuPage County Sheriff's Department. If elected, he said he would resign from that job to focus exclusively on the coroner's office.

Russell said he would work to have the staff and office go through an accreditation process similar to those that local police departments must pass.

"What's great about accreditation, it's a way to solve problems by looking at the nation's best practices," he said. "It's just a way of making the office much more transparent in a way that makes sense."

Martinez, 31, of North Aurora, points to his experience as the owner of a biorecovery firm that decontaminates and restores properties in the case of fatal accidents, homicides, suicides or unattended deaths.

He says his experience dealing with grieving families and hands-on work at death scenes will help him serve as coroner.

Martinez also wants to provide more supplemental training to deputy coroners in the office, and to be proactive in the community by working with other Kane County departments to educate people about household dangers and other causes of preventable death.

"There is no Republican or Democratic way to be coroner. There's a professional way to do it and that's with integrity, dignity and respect," Martinez said. "This office is not about issuing death certificates. It's about saving lives."

Russell said he respects the work that Martinez does, but believes his 20-plus years experience at the sheriff's department, including working in court security, at the jail, on patrol assignment and as a community liaison have helped prepare him for the job.

Russell said he's been a part of at least 60 death investigations with a larger role than Martinez has ever had.

"As a cop, we're the first ones on the scene. When I am on the scene, there's actually a body there. By the time (Martinez) gets to a cleanup scene, the body has been removed. My experience is more relevant," Russell said. "I have conducted a death investigation. He's never conducted a death investigation."

The coroner's office has a four-year term.

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