Newton, Rudd debate future of the coroner’s office
By Frank Abderholden firstname.lastname@example.org October 29, 2012 8:10PM
Dr. Thomas Rudd
Updated: December 29, 2012 1:43AM
Should the coroner’s office seek certifications and maybe even become a medical examiner’s office or should it remain the way it is now, only with more compassion and accountability?
The first idea is from Thomas Rudd, a retired pathologist from Lake Forest who is running on the Democratic ticket.
The second is from Republican Steve Newton, a former chief deputy coroner from Antioch Township who now serves as a court officer at the Lake County courthouse.
Both candidates are running for an office that had an incident involving then-coroner Dr. Richard Keller, who resigned after being charged with a felony in connection with an overdose death of a patient at Keller’s methadone clinic in Waukegan. After his resignation, the sheriff’s office took over the office and declared there were major problems.
Artis Yancey, a former Waukegan police chief, took over the office. He lost in the Democratic primary to Rudd. A new evidence and personal belongings tracking system was put into place and tighter controls were placed on confiscated prescription medicines the office collected as part of death investigations..
Newton lost his job in 2007 when Keller, a Democrat, fired him for having an inappropriate relationship with a co-worker, a woman who is now his wife. Keller claimed Newton altered her time card to pay her for hours she didn’t work and he let her use his office credit card on a business trip for two dinners and two coffees.
“It was politics. When I asked him about it months earlier, he said he didn’t have a problem with the relationship because he had met his wives at work,” said Newton, 39.
He said there was no ghost payrolling, that she was making up the time, and the credit card issue was a non-issue because everyone used that credit card when out of town on coroner office business such as conferences and training. “When she had a hearing at the Department of Labor for unemployment, they ruled she didn’t break any policies,” Newton said.
Rudd, 65, feels the accusations show a lack of integrity on Newton’s part, adding, “We need to restore integrity to the coroner’s office.”
Rudd would like to see the office changed to a medical examiner’s office, where a pathologist is appointed by the County Board. He said doing the autopsies himself and using another pathologist when things get busy, would be a more-effective way to run the office.
“We also need to have the office certified by the National Association of Medical Examiners and the deputy coroners’ also should be certified,” said Rudd, who has 33 years of experience as a physician, surgeon and pathologist.
“That way when an autopsy is done you know it was done correctly,” he added. “I have performed and interpreted a number of autopsies. I could explain the autopsies to the family.”
Newton said the only medical examiners office in the state is in Cook County. He feels it would be more efficient to continue with the hiring of pathologists and just keeping better track of overtime with the deputy coroners.
“The county administrator has looked at this three times in the last 20 years and it’s just not cost effective,” he said. “I feel strongly the office should be elected. I’d rather answer to the public and be held accountable by the people of the county,” said Newton, who is a former firefighter/paramedic.
“My primary focus for this office is to get the family back involved like what we used to have,” he said, referring to inquests where family members had a voice in the process and the office was more transparent to the public.
He would also keep investing in new equipment for the coroner’s office to make it more efficient and accurate.