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Coroner sues Fulton County to get administrative stipend

Coroner sues Fulton County to get administrative stipend

Fulton County’s Board of Supervisors is facing a lawsuit from one of the county’s two coroners, who

Fulton County’s Board of Supervisors is facing a lawsuit from one of the county’s two coroners, who didn’t get a $1,680 stipend that the other did.

Coroner Arthur L. Simmons Jr. filed a petition in state Supreme Court contending the stipend Fulton County Coroner Margaret Luck received in the 2013 budget is a violation of his rights.

According to documents filed in the case, Simmons argues he does the same work as Luck and should get the stipend, too. Otherwise, Luck’s stipend should be ruled invalid, Simmons’ attorney, William Lorman, writes in the petition.

The county’s attorney, Jason Brott, denies in court papers the board violated the law because Luck “handles central administrative work tasks related to the coroners’ office.”

Charged with investigating deaths any time of the day, the county’s two part-time coroners are on call seven days a week. According to the county’s 2013 budget, the entire department is expected to cost $71,250 this year.

The coroners aren’t paid a salary, but instead receive $160 for each case they handle.

Pay for the coroners is budgeted at $24,800 for both. It was unclear if each handles the same number of cases, but only Luck was in line for the $1,680 budgeted as “Admin stipend.”

The county board’s decision to award Luck the stipend wasn’t unanimous, according to minutes from the board’s Nov. 26, 2012 meeting.

At that time, Northampton town Supervisor Linda Kemper argued administrative duties — including putting together a budget for the office — should be part of their job.

Another supervisor, William Waldron of Johnstown’s 4th Ward, said during that meeting that since they are elected officials, he believed administrative functions weren’t their jobs.

Supervisor Nancy MacVean of the town of Johnstown suggested the money be divided equally between both coroners, an idea that didn’t come to fruition.

The resolution approving the stipend identifies several “administrative tasks” it covers, including agenda item preparation, budget monitoring, budget amendments and budget preparation, “in addition to what each individual coroner performs on their own caseload management.”

In the county’s defense, Brott wrote in court papers the board’s Committee on Public Safety and Personnel endorsed the creation of the stipend and said it is “independent of the regular caseload payments to the coroners and is not part of the base salary or used to compute salary increases.”

If neither coroner agreed to take on the preparation and monitoring of the budget, the county would have to hire somebody to do it, Brott argues in court documents.

Simmons declined to comment on the case Friday. His attorney was in court and could not be reached.

Neither Brott nor Luck could not be reached Friday, either.

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