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County Board chairman, sheriff criticize coroner

Published: Friday, May 9, 2014 11:42 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, May 10, 2014 7:27 a.m. CDT

GENEVA – Kane County Coroner Rob Russell’s monthly report to a committee Friday turned into a verbal lashing from County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen and Sheriff Pat Perez.

Both criticized Russell for making the coroner’s office a dropoff site for unwanted prescription drugs, saying that responsibility falls under the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s office has successfully invested time and effort into its drug take-back program, which in recent months collected about 575 pounds of prescription medications, Perez said. He said he and his staff are offended that Russell is trying to “mission creep.”

“I didn’t realize we were in competition of getting drugs off the street,” Russell said.

The coroner’s office collected more than 40 pounds of prescription drugs during its open house May 3, Russell said.

He noted some people feel more comfortable bringing the medications to his office than to a police station.

“I’m not trying to mission creep,” Russell said. “If that offends you, sheriff, I’m sorry.”

In recapping the open house, Russell also shared survey results from those who toured the coroner’s facilities.

The visitors described the building as “appalling,” “deplorable” and “a disgrace to residents,” the coroner said, noting his concern that a new facility isn’t part of the five-year capital plan.

Lauzen said the coroner’s building will be included in the long-term planning process, as will other facilities currently not named in the plan.

Because a new building would be at least three to five years away, Lauzen said the coroner should address any safety concerns until then.

He criticized Russell for not yet spending the $76,000 budgeted for a new walk-in refrigerator and morgue freezer – items Lauzen said he thought were “urgent” needs.

Russell said he asked for a new freezer before the existing one broke on Thanksgiving.

Why, he said, should he buy a new freezer when he just paid $3,500 to fix the old one?

Board member Theresa Barreiro, D-Aurora, said she is shocked that Russell hasn’t bought a new freezer.

She is afraid the old freezer will break down again while there is money set aside to replace it, she said.

Russell invited board members to meet with him one-on-one next week so they can further talk about his office’s needs and the feedback he got from a panel of coroners about Kane’s facilities.

After the meeting adjourned, Russell expressed his bewilderment over the discussion and said, “I’ve got the public opinion on my side.”

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