Judge rules in favor of Crawford County in coroner lawsuit
Macon Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Tilman E. Self III ruled in favor of the county to dismiss the case on Wednesday. Coroner Allen O’Neal claimed the county wasn’t giving him what he needed to do his job. O’Neal wanted a county car, a new office, and a phone and fax line in his home.
Duke Groover, the attorney representing the county, argued a law passed in 2001 gives county sole descretion to decide what the coroner needs to do his job. The law also states the coroner only needs 1 deputy coroner. The county allows O’Neal to have 2. Groover added the county pays for 2 funeral homes of the coroner’s choosing to pick up the bodies from crime scenes. Groover continued to explain in 2008, the county took away the coroner’s $1,800 car allowance, but raised the salary an additional 30% which gave the coroner enough money to cover the car allowance. Groover claims O’Neal rejected an office the county offered to him that had internet and fax access because it “wasn’t nice enough.” Groover closed his arguments stating in order for O’Neal to prove gross abuse of descretion, O’Neal needed to prove he could not do his job with what he’s been given. Groover said O’Neal did not do that.
“The county is proving all of the necessary operating expenses for the coroner’s office that it’s required to by law and actually, doing more than is required,” said Duke Groover, the attorney representing the county.
O’Neal’s attorney argued the county has enough money to provide him with what he believes he needs to do his job. His attorney said it doesn’t matter if O’Neal doesn’t pick up bodies in his personal truck. Blood and bodily fluids from the scene get on his clothing and are transferred to his vehicle when he gets inside to leave. O’Neal is disappointed in the ruling, but said he still will not use his personal truck when he responds to crime scene calls.
“I don’t feel safe coming back home after I’ve been in bodily fluids and everything of that nature, getting in my vehicle and then tomorrow morning, my grand baby crawling up in that car,” said O’Neal.
Judge Self also advised the county’s attorney to file another motion that, if granted, would require O’Neal to pay for both attorney fees. The county manager estimates at least $40,000 for those fees.
O’Neal said he doesn’t have that money. Groover plans to file the motion before next month.