Here are some bits from an email conversation (used with permission) with Madison County Coroner-elect Craig Whisenant. Y’all are going to be happy we elected Whisenant:
As the newly elected Coroner here in Madison County, I see it as absolutely vital that we remove the Coroner’s office from any private business.
Please consider the following scenario: The county Coroner is transporting human remains from a crime scene to the Department of Forensic Science for an autopsy. He is using his personal automobile (van/suv/etc) as a transport vehicle. What happens if the Coroner has an automobile accident?Secondly, human bodies that are in the care of the coroner should be kept in a secure, neutral location – not a private place of business. By keeping human remains in a private place of business, the door is open for accusations that evidence has been tampered with. From a legal perspective, it is only prudent for the county to handle county business. Private businesses should not have to subsidize the Coroner’s office – or any other government office for that matter. We can’t expect local funeral homes to provide for our county government.Therefore, I believe that we must remove the Coroner’s office from any private business and use county resources to handle the responsibilities of the county in regard to facilities and automobiles. Providing a proper facility and an automobile would fall to the County Commission. I believe this could be a possible reality at no additional expense to the county.
The Coroner’s office here in Madison County does have a small 10k budget that can be used at the coroner’s discretion. We believe that there is space designated for the coroner’s use at the Madison County Courthouse but that it hasn’t been used in many years since the Coroner has officed out of local funeral homes for most of the last hundred years. I talked to one of our county commissioners tonight and the options for office space are being looked into. Also, the county does have a fleet and we believe that there may possibly be an older, used vehicle that would be suitable for the Coroner’s use.By the way, the Limestone County Coroner has both a van for transporting remains as well as a sedan that he normally drives. I also know that the Morgan and Colbert County Coroners both have county vehicles that they are able to use. The Madison County Coroner’s caseload far exceeds that of any of our surrounding counties, yet it appears we have the smallest budget by far. I hope to increase the efficiency and responsiveness of the office without placing any further financial demands on the county commission. Unfortunately, I won’t know exactly what I’m walking into until I take office. I do know that one of the county commissioners told me that the coroner’s office has not been discussed in a commission meeting since he’s been on the commission (10 years).Lastly, I am already working with experienced coroners in surrounding counties and with the Alabama Coroner’s Association to make sure that we’re going to be on the cutting edge here in Madison County. I have the guidance and support of Sam Spry, long-time Madison County Coroner, as well as a deputy coroner who served under the current coroner. I will do my best to give you updates about our progress as time goes by and we have an opportunity to make some things happen.