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County will pay third deputy coroner's salary

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Upon second request, court agrees to pay $4,200 for deputy currently working for free

By Calen McKinney

 

Taylor County's third deputy coroner will be a paid position after all.

Last month, Taylor County Coroner Terry Dabney wrote a letter asking magistrates to consider creating a third paid deputy coroner position. After some discussion, however, the request was denied, as were many other requests for county funding.

But on Tuesday night, Dabney asked magistrates to consider his request again. The position would cost the county $4,200 a year.

In Dabney's letter to Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers, he wrote that coroner services are required at all times. He has reviewed his office's caseload, and when compared to last year, there has been an increase, Dabney wrote.

Magistrates James Jones and Richard Phillips indicated at last month's meeting that they were in favor of paying for a third deputy. The other four magistrates voted to not pay the position.

On Tuesday, Dabney said he has had three deputy coroners since 2005. One of those employees, he said, has been working without being paid.

Since 2005, Dabney said, his office's caseload has steadily increased. He said he doesn't believe it's fair to continue asking a deputy to work for nothing.

He said the employee would be paid $4,200, which equates to $350 a month, with no benefits or insurance.

As a chaplain, Jones said, he has been to many car crashes in which there were several dead.

"When something like that happens, you need more than one person there," he said.

Jones said he believes Dabney's request is reasonable and made a motion to begin paying the third deputy. Phillips seconded it.

Before voting, magistrate Matt Pendleton said he is more likely to agree with the request if it was for a one-time purchase such as equipment. But an additional salary, he said, is something that, once approved, could be paid forever.

Magistrate Tommy Corbin said state law requires there to be one deputy coroner for every 24,000 people. Dabney said the intent of that law is for all counties to have at least two deputy coroners, no matter the size of the county.

As coroners, Dabney said, he and his deputies don't have the luxury of saying they will do their work tomorrow. He said they are needed and on call at all times.

"I've got to be there," he said. "Somebody that is qualified has got to be there, got to respond immediately."

Dabney, who also operates Parrott & Ramsey Funeral Home, said he personally pays for many supplies he and his deputies use, from the cost of having a secretary to office supplies, transportation, printers, photos and more. When he is no longer coroner, he said, he believes magistrates will truly realize how much he gives to the position.

"I guarantee you, if I were not coroner, the expenses would be greatly exacerbated because you just do not understand the free stuff I give you because of the ability in my other professional job to do so."

Corbin said he spoke to representatives from five counties who say they have only the amount of deputies they are required to have.

He said while those counties - which he declined to mention by name - have many more residents, Dabney is saying Taylor County's population of 24,000 needs three deputy coroners.

Dabney said Elizabethtown has more deputies than required and Adair County, which is smaller than Taylor County, has three. Jefferson County has 10 deputies.

Corbin said state law requires that coroners are to be paid $300 a month for expenses and the county pays Dabney's office more than $1,700.

Dabney said the $300 a month is for unaccounted expenses, such as small purchases. Other expenses, such as transportation and computer costs, are to be specifically counted each month. He said he can show documentation that his office uses more than $1,700 in expenses per month.

"And one of these days you all will find that out," he said.

Dabney said his office's compensation is completely up to magistrates. He said he has been coroner almost 40 years and remembers when he was paid $1,800 a year.

"If you think that's fair, you know, it's fair," Dabney said. "It's your all's option."

Pendleton said he will vote against paying the third deputy because he isn't in favor of increasing the county's budget. He said he thinks highly of Dabney and respects his work.

"You don't get told that enough by the people you service, because they're not here to tell you," he said.

Dabney said he respects Pendleton's opinion.

"I've found over the last 40 years ... you know, if you're not dead, you don't need me," Dabney said. But families of those who die, Dabney said, seem to appreciate a coroner after a death.

When voting, magistrate John Gaines said he voted to not pay the deputy last month but has since changed his mind. He said he believes it isn't fair for someone to work and not be paid.

In a roll-call vote, Corbin and Pendleton cast the lone "no" votes to paying the third deputy position.

At a meeting earlier this year, magistrates set the salaries for elected officials for their upcoming terms. Rates set for the coroner's office are:

• Coroner - $18,359.44, plus an annual CPI increase.

• First deputy coroner - $6,458.08, plus the county's annual raise.

• Second deputy coroner - $4,427.57, plus the county's annual raise.

Read about more action taken during Tuesday's meeting, including a denied request for the county to help fund the Campbellsville/Taylor County Anti-Drug Coalition and a disagreement about setting a speed limit, in Monday's issue.