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Franklin County considers switch from 4 coroners to 2, plus 2 deputies

MALONE — The County Legislature on Thursday discussed with the Coroner’s Office the prospect of switching up how it operates moving forward.

There is early dialogue about switching from four elected coroners to two coroners and two appointed deputies, Legislature Minority Leader Paul Maroun said at the meeting.

The conversation is ongoing. No decision was made and no votes were cast.

Officials surmise that two coroners could be easier to organize arrangements — with one working the northern parts of the county and the other, the southern. This could better improve the coroner response throughout the entire county, officials added.

“We’re paying all four coroners the same amount of money, (but) we’re not getting the same amount of work out of all four coroners,” legislature Chairman Donald Dabiew said.

Maroun indicated at the meeting there may currently be some instances where one coroner could log more hours than others. This brought on the discussion of possibly adding on a per diem to the coroner salaries.

“That way, everybody gets a base salary, but the people who work more are paid more, and the people who don’t work as much get paid less,” Maroun said.

Brian Langdon, who has served 26 years as a Franklin County coroner expressed a two-coroner, two-deputy coroner model would be something he’d be interested in exploring. Langdon explained a factor in him working a 40-hour week is due to the amount of paperwork that needs to be filled out.

Coroner Chairman Ronald Keough said he believes the county would be better off keeping the coroner’s current structure. Keough said back in the 1970s, the county was not allowed to pay per diem or per case — instead payment needed to be in the form of a salary. This had been approved by both the state and the IRS, he said – where the four coroners would each be on a salary. At the time, the prospect of per diem pay gained no traction, he added.

“We need to find a more equitable way to balance out the load a little bit,” Keough said, adding the issue lies more so in workload distribution at the north end of the county, in contrast to the south.

Keough confirmed with the county legislature at the meeting that complaints surrounding coroner services have not been common.

“I don’t think it’s (a matter of) dissatisfaction,” Dabiew said. “I think we feel that if we had two coroners and they picked their deputies — they could pick people (who) are easier to work load … they would know who is easiest to work with — rather than have four elected officials (who) are all over the place.”

Keough said if the county was to shrink the layout to two coroners and two deputies, the two county coroners would be handling all the paperwork. The deputy would provide to the coroner all report information into one file, rather than documents being sorted in two to four places.

The office is currently made up of four coroners: Keough, Langdon, Shawn Stuart and Hubert Wilcox.

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