Coroner’s 2013 funding request nears approval

Lauzen, Russell clash over freezer issue

Published: Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

GENEVA – Kane County Coroner Rob Russell’s request for an extra $88,000 for fiscal 2013 is one step away from County Board approval.

The Kane County Board’s Executive Committee on Wednesday forwarded the request – which covers autopsies, toxicology expenses, overtime and fuel costs – to the board’s Tuesday meeting.

The $88,000 does not include the costs of repairing a freezer that broke last week, causing two bodies stored there to decompose. Russell said the repair was about $3,500.

Board Chairman Chris Lauzen said he expects the item will be discussed at an upcoming Judicial and Public Safety Committee meeting.

“I grieve for the human beings who had died and were under Rob’s care and suffered that indignity,” Lauzen said.

He said the first-term coroner has had a year to do inventory of potential breakdowns and to conduct preventive maintenance.

Funds are budgeted in 2014 for capital improvements, Lauzen said. He said the board likely would have granted a request to address the freezer sooner had Russell stepped forward with that need.

Russell said he strives to give everybody who comes into his care the dignity that they deserve. But, he said, he couldn’t predict that a compressor would break in the morgue freezer over the Thanksgiving holiday.

“I don’t think there’s anybody who believes you can know when equipment is going to fail,” Russell said, noting his staff checks the equipment every day. “If it’s working fine, there’s no reason to believe it will break in an hour.”

The freezer is a symptom of a larger problem with the coroner’s facilities and equipment, Russell said.

“All the equipment I inherited is old, including the building,” he said.

With various issues to address – including the purchase of an X-ray machine and a 10-year-old vehicle needing $4,000 in repairs – an evaluation must be conducted to decide which equipment should be replaced or repaired next year, Russell said.

Any purchases also must take the facilities into consideration, Russell said. He would want to buy equipment that could be transferred elsewhere should his office get a new – or newer – building, he said.