Crawford coroner takes county to court

mstucka@macon.comJune 26, 2014 

Crawford County’s coroner is taking the county government to court, hoping to get a judge to force the county to provide him the equipment he says he needs to run his office.

Coroner Allen O’Neal filed the petition Wednesday in Crawford County Superior Court. O’Neal wants a judge to order the county “to perform their official duties as mandated by Georgia Law and Local Act, including but not limited to providing a vehicle for the Office of the Coroner, providing a safe, secure office for the Coroner with a secure location for all evidence and samples monitored by the Sheriff’s Office” and paying for telephone and fax lines at O’Neal’s house.

The dispute has been brewing for months. O’Neal previously said he would file suit if the county didn’t do what it had to.

The official Crawford County attorney represents both the county commissioners and the coroner, leading to outside attorneys in the case. O’Neal is being represented by Michelle Smith, of Warner Robins. The County Commission hired Duke Groover, of Macon, as its attorney in the case.

Groover told The Telegraph that the county believes it’s complied with the law and has given O’Neal what he needs.

Commission Chairman Dean Fripp said this year that “he’s asked for an office. He’s asked for a lot of different things that we’ve given him. Nothing that we’ve done has been good enough.”

O’Neal’s petition cites state law that says the coroner must be provided supplies and equipment to reasonably run the office. One of the larger sticking points was a vehicle. O’Neal’s lawsuit says that “bodily fluids are a health hazard and risk for the Coroner to use his personal vehicle for the discharge of his duties. Further, the County is unable to provide any liability insurance to and from death scenes for the use of the Coroner’s personal vehicle.”

The lawsuit also said the county had stopped paying bills for telephone and fax service at O’Neal’s house, ending a practice of seven years. The suit said he deals with paperwork involving death calls after hours.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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