County Council approves $96,000 for coroner's office

·2 min read

Jul. 13—ANDERSON — After a lengthy and at times heated discussion, the Madison County Council approved $95,698 for the coroner's office.

Dr. Troy Abbott, the Madison County coroner, has been at odds with the council for the past 18 months over funding for the office.

On Tuesday, the County Council voted to provide Abbott with the requested funding, which is expected to last through the end of 2022.

Abbott said the appropriation gives the office $140,000 through the end of the year to pay for professional services.

With the approved funding, Abbott agreed to provide the council with a monthly accounting of expenditures.

"Keep us informed month to month," Councilman Rob Steele said. "I don't have a problem with the $95,698."

Council President Ben Gale and Councilwoman Diana Likens cast no votes, wanting to appropriate a lesser amount and have Abbott return in the future with additional funding requests.

Gale said $250,000 was spent in 2021 for professional services in the coroner's office, more than the $140,000 that was budgeted.

Councilman Fred Reese said he hoped that, with the approved funding, the problems between the council and coroner have been resolved.

"Let's put this behind us," he said. "Tonight went a long way."

Abbott said he spent $77,065 on outstanding bills from 2021, which was paid for from the 2022 budget, and has a pending bill of $13,000 from 2018.

Gale said that the council appropriated additional funds in 2021 to pay the past-due bills.

"Every year we are underfunded," Abbott said. "We're trying to get everything caught up."

There was a discussion of when the council is required by state law to pay for an autopsy and when an autopsy is performed at the discretion of the coroner.

Alfarena McGinity, Marion County's chief deputy coroner, said the coroner determines when an investigation and examination into a death are required.

"We want to make sure we aren't missing anything," she said. "When we don't know the manner and cause of death, an investigation should be conducted."

McGinity said that every year the Marion County coroner's office anticipates a 20% increase in death investigations.

Abbott said his office needs to be doing more death investigations because of a rampant narcotics problem in Madison County.

"There has been a breakdown in trust," Gale said, referring to the frayed relationship between the council and Abbott. "This is a culture that you established. I offered and others have offered to help.

"We can't trust the information you're giving us," he said.

Abbott said he is trying to get the office the funding that it needs in order to avoid operating on a shoestring budget.

McGinity said she is working with Abbott on the 2023 budget for the office.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.