County coroner resigns

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Shelby County Coroner Doug Ballard resigned Monday night, citing &uot;that for some reason the Shelby County Commission continues to retard the growth and improvement of various services of our county.&uot;

Ballard told commissioners at their meeting that funding differences had forced his resignation.

&uot;If you’re not going to fund us with funding we’ve requested, I am forced to (tender) my resignation as coroner,&uot; Ballard said.

Ballard was first appointed by the governor to fill the term of former coroner Dr. Steven Pustilnik when Pustilnik moved to Texas, a move that was brought on by the non-support of his office by the county commission, he said.

Ballard was then elected as the county’s coroner during last year’s election cycle.

For two-and-a-half years, Ballard said, there have been requests for vehicles, full-time office personnel and an increase in his salary &045; requests that have been ignored, he contends.

&uot;It costs me about $1,200 a month to be coroner,&uot; he said.

He told the commissioners that Shelby County residents, sheriff’s personnel and the district attorney’s office must wait 13 months for autopsies and toxicology reports.

Providing for autopsies and reports of this nature are a function of the state forensics department, however, and commissioners contend that no increase in funding would change those waiting periods.

Of the vehicle, Ballard said, &uot;People lay on the side of the road for hours at a time in the heat and the rain while ants and bugs attack their bodies.&uot;

&uot;That’s the reason we needed another vehicle,&uot; he said, comparing the lack of another vehicle in the coroner’s office to the three transport vehicles of the Shelby County Humane Society and the three canine units of the Sheriff’s Department.

Commissioner Don Armstrong, head of the commission’s finance committee, said no county department has ever received an increase of 100-200 percent on its budget.

&uot;That would not be responsible budgeting,&uot; he said, &uot;and no one on this commission is willing to go into debt to increase a budget that much.&uot;

Of the other issues like salary, Armstrong said, since the coroner is a state position, any increase must go through the county’s legislative delegation and then, the state Legislature.

&uot;We agreed to work with him to get that done through our legislative delegation,&uot; he said.

The budget for fiscal year 2003-04, which was approved Monday following Ballard’s announcement, allowed for $112,781, not the $217,880 that was requested. Last year’s budget allowed $140,000 for the coroner’s office.

County Attorney Butch Ellis said all the commission could do was acknowledge Ballard’s resignation.

Since his is a state position, he must resign to the governor, Ellis said, and the governor will appoint someone to fulfill his term