Coroner-elect asks board for help, raise

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 15, 1999

James Lee is not a happy coroner-elect.

In a presentation to the Adams County Board of Supervisors Monday morning, Lee came away empty-handed after proposing office space and two deputy coroners for the start of his term as coroner Jan. 1.

Supervisors took Lee’s proposals under advisement until their next meeting Monday, Nov. 22.

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Lee submitted the names of Dr. Michael Wheelis, an emergency room physician at Natchez Community Hospital, and Rosie Newman, a paramedic, as potential deputy coroners for Adams County.

&uot;I am asking that they be trained with the county coroner on Nov. 29,&uot; Lee said.

Lee will attend a week-long workshop at the State Medical Examiner’s office in Jackson beginning Nov. 29. Lee requested that the county pay the $800 fee per deputy to train Wheelis and Newman at the same time.

Board Attorney Marion Smith said he questioned the legality of such a move. Smith was not certain county funds could be expended on deputy coroners appointed by a coroner who had not yet been sworn into office. Lee’s status as coroner-elect qualifies him for the training.

&uot;If I am to operate the coroner’s office 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I’ll need some help to service the entire county,&uot; Lee said.

Virginia Salmon, president of the Adams County Board of Supervisors, questioned Lee.

&uot;I&160;must assume you promised the time to devote to the office before you ran for it,&uot; Salmon said.

In the state of Mississippi, 64 of the 82 county coroners have deputy coroners on file with the State Medical Examiner in Jackson, said Sally Lawrence, executive secretary for the State Medical Examiner.

Dr. Arnold Feldman, Natchez anesthesiologist, is listed as a deputy coroner for Adams County’s outgoing coroner, Dr. Hugh Tedder, Lawrence said.

Supervisors also discussed the coroner’s compensation.

Lee proposed a $750 per month salary in addition to an $85 per case fee as described in House Bill 1488 passed into law during the 1998 legislative session.

Under the law, a county medical examiner may receive up to $750 per month but no less than $100 per month in addition to an $85 per case compensation.

&uot;We have never provided a salary, only a fee per case compensation,&uot; Salmon said. &uot;We are working with a lean budget this year, and we’re not in a position to amend the budget.&uot;

Smith said he is still researching the issue of coroner’s salary, but his understanding of the new law is that Lee will be due a minimum of $100 per month in salary and $85 per case.