Meet candidates for county coroner

Credentials aren’t high on their list

Questioned if they would support an initiative requiring coroners to hold medical or scientific credentials, only one candidate for Montezuma County coroner said yes.

“Many states have mandates in place, because cause of death investigation is primarily medical in nature,” responded George W. Deavers.

Deavers said he believes that requiring certain medical credentials for coroners would be sensible, but because of limited funding, coroners in smaller communities often perform the duties of both coroner and medical examiner.

“This is the case in Montezuma County,” he said. “This might not be the perfect system, but it is the only practical one with the funds currently available for the coroner position in our community.”

Deavers, Montezuma County chief deputy coroner for the past 11 years, and Michael Hall, a former Arizona State Police officer for six years, are campaigning for the county coroner’s post in the GOP’s June primary election.

Responding to the same issue, Hall said the coroner’s office contracts with medical professionals who have specific medical training. Often, medical professionals have little to no training relating to on-scene investigation, he added.

“The collaboration between medical professionals and the coroner allows each professional to focus on their particular strengths and expertise,” Hall said. “However, to enhance the coroner’s office, it is essential to continue education in both the investigative and medical field.”

Hall, 35, said his six years of experience as an Arizona State Police investigator “uniquely qualified” him as coroner. While stationed on the Navajo Indian Reservation, Hall said he had the opportunity to prefect his investigative skills while implementing the newest protocols.

“Arizona is a medical examiner state, which means as a state police officer, I completed tasks for which a Colorado county coroner is responsible,” Hall said. “I identified the body, took the proper steps of confirming the identification, inventoried personal belongings found on the body, witnessed the autopsy and delivered next of kin notifications.”

In addition to serving as deputy coroner, Deavers, 50, said he also has 26 years of experience as a certified EMT, and that combined experience sets him apart from Hall. Deavers added that he has assisted on hundreds of cases with the coroner’s office.

“If elected, I will be able to hit the ground running, fulfilling the duties of the coroner instead of having to learn what to do and how to do it,” Deavers said.

The Cortez Journal sent both candidates a six-question survey, requesting them to define the difference between a coroner, a medical examiner and a forensic pathologist; list the top three needs of the office; and list three action items they’d introduce to guarantee the public’s right to know, to name a few.

In response to public access, Deavers said HIPAA regulations govern personal health information. However, if law or regulation did not restrict the requested information, then Deavers said it would be provided.

Hall, on the other hand, appeared to have a more open door policy, stating he would introduce a coroner’s office online link to the county website. As a public official, it is imperative to be available to the public and to provide accurate information, he added.

Both candidate surveys and their replies are available unedited in their entirety at cortezjournal.com.

tbaker@cortezjournal.com