Thursday, July 10, 2014

Action again urged on deputy coroner

February 19. 2013 6:13PM
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Another local funeral director has publicly urged the Luzerne County ethics commission to take action on a complaint involving a deputy coroner.

Brian Leffler, of Kniffen O'Malley Funeral Home Inc., told the commission Monday he was with the complaint filer, Belinda Coulibaly, when she received several phone calls from a deputy coroner seeking business for his private funeral home.

She finally said to me, ‘Why won't this gentleman leave me alone?' Leffler told the commission.

Coulibaly, a Wilkes-Barre college student whose father unexpectedly died of natural causes in August, filed a complaint against a deputy coroner in October, saying he violated an ethics code ban prohibiting coroners from soliciting, discussing or accepting business for a funeral home with which they are associated while they're engaged in county business.

Deputy coroners can't recommend any funeral home services while they're engaged in county business, the code says.

Local funeral home director Patrick Lehman also has urged the commission to take action on the complaint.

The commission interviewed Coulibaly in executive session Monday afternoon and planned to discuss the complaint in another closed-door meeting Monday night.

Leffler said the deputy coroner in question was not assigned to the case and showed up to assist another deputy removing the body of Coulibaly's father.

It should not have been his concern to contact the family unless he was trying to solicit business, Leffler said in a letter he presented to the commission.

Leffler said he has unsuccessfully complained about deputy coroners soliciting business in the past.

I don't want you to think that every coroner is doing this, but it is happening by more than one, he said.

The name of the deputy coroner was withheld by The Times Leader pending adjudication of the complaint.

The subject of the complaint, one of more than 30 funeral directors who work as deputy coroners, has said he abides by the ethics code ban but is free to accept business through his private funeral home if people contact him, unsolicited, after his interactions with them as a coroner have concluded.

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