Something needs to change about the way deaths are investigated in Oneida County. That's something County Executive Anthony Picente and County Coroner David Julian agree on. But while Picente wants to do away with the coroner's office completely, Julian says he'd like more time to make improvements. Sarah Blazonis talked with both about the changes they want put in place.
UTICA, N.Y. -- When David Julian was elected Oneida County Coroner back in November, he says he had a plan to change the way business was done.
"I wanted to improve the Coroner's Office. I wanted to bring it into the 21st century. I wanted to make it more accessible to the taxpayers," said Julian.
Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, Jr. says he has the same goals, but for him, reaching them means doing away with the four county coroners.
"It's really trying to take what I believe is an inefficient and antiquated type of system into a more efficient and more accountable system of a medical examiner," said Picente.
Picente says the medical examiner would be a pathologist who would be a better link in the law enforcement chain at crime scenes than coroners.
"They can identify by knowledge whether it's suspicious, but ultimately that lies with the police agencies. That lies with the district attorney's office. That lies with law enforcement. And then that lies with the medical personnel," said Picente.
But Julian says instead of going with a medical examiner, the county's current coroners should be given more time to make the necessary changes, like appointing a chief coroner for better oversight and moving into a central office.
"Right now, we're working out of St. Elizabeth's Hospital," said Julian. "We have to have a liaison, and because of that add a cost of $43,000. I want us to have our own office, where we can come where we need to come with the bodies. Our autopsies would be done there."
The decision of whether to switch to a medical examiner will ultimately be made by the county's Board of Legislators. Julian says that doesn't sit well with him because it was the voters who put he and his fellow coroners into office.
"The system is broken. We can fix it. Give us a chance," said Julian.
Legislation regarding the Medical Examiner's Office will next be considered by the Ways and Means Committee. It could be brought to the entire board early next month.