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Not everyone pleased with plan for Oneida County to transition to medical examiner

By JOLEEN FERRIS

ONEIDA COUNTY, N.Y. (WKTV) - The move from an elected coroner system to a medical examiner's office in Oneida County has cleared its first hurdle Tuesday night when the Oneida County Board of legislators' Health and Human Services Committee approved legislation that would establish a medical examiners office.

However, one current county coroner isn't happy about that.

Coroner Dave Julian took office in January and says the coroner's office is and should be an elected office, accountable to Oneida County voters.

"What the coroner's office is, is an elected position that's accountable to the people of Oneida County. we work for the county people not for Mr. Picente or anyone up on the top floor there," says Julian.

County Executive Anthony Picente says shifting to a medical examiner's office is hardly politicizing the post. Picente says that this way, there are job requirements that actually qualify an individual for the job; job requirements that call for an actual physician to hold the position.

"This is not a political maneuver; in terms of a medical examiner is a doctor, a physician, the appointment of which has to be a pathologist," Picente said Wednesday. "It's not going to be someone I'm just going to pick off the street, like a coroner. There are no requirements for coroner."

Julian also questions the fiscal feasibility of a medical examiner's office. Julian says the coroner's office came in slightly under its roughly $500,000 budget in 2011, but that that shifting to a medical examiner. could cost up to $1 million. Picente says a more efficient, modern system could actually save money, and that if costs were to go up, it would not be by half a million dollars.

Many larger cities have gone to a medical examiner's office run by medical doctors, specifically, forensic pathologists. Currently, the only job requirements for Oneida County Coroner are a valid driver's license and that the candidate be a registered county voter.

Next, the medical examiner's office legislation goes to the Ways and Means Committee of the legislature May 9th. If they pass it, the full board could vote on it that day.

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