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Coroner announces accreditation, says office is 'worth investing in'

Russell: 'We've gone from laughingstock to preferred stock'

GENEVA – Kane County Coroner Rob Russell announced Thursday his has become the first coroner's office in Illinois to achieve accreditation.

"I think I brought integrity back to the office," the first-term coroner said during a news conference at the Kane County Government Center in Geneva.

Russell's predecessor, Chuck West, had been charged with official misconduct and died before the case went to trial. Russell campaigned on promises that he would restore integrity to an office previously marked by controversy.

Costs of pursuing accreditation included a one-time fee of $3,500, Russell said. He said a nominal fee will be charged annually; accreditation is granted for five years.

Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen, who was not at the news conference, said he celebrates any success in Kane County.

"I look forward to hearing more about how the benefits will exceed the costs," Lauzen said. "I'm relieved that all the bad and upsetting things that we've heard in committee for a year and a half did not affect the outcome of accreditation."

Achieving accreditation from the International Association of Coroners & Medical Examiners was, Russell said, "no small task."

Obstacles included the nearly 50 unclaimed remains that had been abandoned on a dusty storage shelf, highly scrutinized budgets, a broken freezer and, most recently, mold in the morgue, he said.

But despite what some might call a tough year, he said, his office survived and thrived.

"We've gone from laughingstock to preferred stock," Russell said.

When evaluating an agency for accreditation, the International Association of Coroners & Medical Examiners looks at 140 standards that fall into the categories of investigations, facilities, forensics and administration.

Russell said the outsourcing of forensic operations to DuPage County didn't hinder the accreditation process. Rather, he said, his office wouldn't have passed muster if it weren't for the agreement with DuPage.

At the time of the on-site visit, he said, the mold was present and other building issues were identified, including improper ventilation. He recalled the audit team as saying "this facility in its present state will not cut it."

Russell emphasized that he needs support from the County Board so that a modernized coroner facility is included in the county's five-year capital plan.

"We are worth investing in," he said.

Russell should next address board members at Friday's Judicial and Public Safety Committee meeting. In addition to the coroner's 2015 budget request, the agenda includes a presentation about the morgue.

On the Web

Visit to watch a video from Kane County Coroner Rob Russell's news conference about his office receiving accreditation.

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