Gov. Nathan Deal issued an executive order Wednesday suspending Crawford County Coroner Allen O’Neal from office pending the outcome of the criminal case against him -- or the expiration of his term, whichever occurs first.
A three-member panel -- made up of Spalding County Coroner John Foster, Stephens County Coroner Chris Stephens and Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens -- unanimously recommended O’Neal’s suspension after convening a hearing Friday, according to the order.
Crawford County grand jurors indicted O’Neal two months ago on two counts alleging he violated his oath of office by not responding to a death call May 2 and firing a deputy coroner because he did respond.
No trial date has been set, but at earliest, the case could go to trial Dec. 7.
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O’Neal’s term in office is set to expire Dec. 31, 2016.
Contacted Wednesday, O’Neal’s lawyer Michelle Smith said, “We’re disappointed, but we’re not surprised.”
Since his arrest, O’Neal has maintained that he’s done nothing wrong.
Smith said Wednesday that the death call in question was “not suspicious,” and it followed a hospital stay.
O’Neal has said he was working the case from home and fired his deputy for insubordination because he had instructed the deputy not to respond in his own car.
The death case came after O’Neal filed a lawsuit against Crawford County seeking the county to provide him an office, a car, Internet access and fax equipment at his home as well as other items or money to do his job.
A judge dismissed the lawsuit two days after the death call, saying it lacked merit.
Robert Cody has been serving as acting coroner since May 11.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398 or find her on Twitter@awomackmacon.