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Magnetic decals might prove answer to vehicle disagreement

Jun 19, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

Fremont County commissioners and Coroner Ed McAuslan recognize at least one goal in their ongoing debate over identification decals placed on his vehicle.

"As I told the coroner ... I want the situation to be concluded," commissioner Dennis Christensen told his fellow board members June 5 about a meeting he had earlier with McAuslan.

The two discussed a possible compromise involving magnetic signs affixed to his vehicle that will identify it as part of the coroner's department. The magnets would allow the coroner to remove the identifying markers whenever he wants.

"To me, that solves the whole issue, and, like commissioner Christensen, I want this resolved," McAuslan told the county leaders.

Commissioners questioned whether magnetic decals would satisfy their requirement that the coroner's vehicle be identified.

McAuslan said he doesn't want permanent decals on his vehicles because at investigation scenes a coroner marker would bring unwanted public attention. He said the commission is not as qualified as himself to make decisions about his department's vehicles.

In January, the commission raised concerns about McAuslan getting flashing emergency lights and sirens on his vehicles, which they want identified so the public knows which agency is responding to a situation.

They sent the coroner a letter dated April 17 containing their demands for the decals. Their letter noted county policy that cars and trucks "should be clearly marked as 'Property of Fremont County Government' on the sides of the vehicles and equipment."

With the magnetic signs, McAuslan said if they are "potentially detrimental" at a scene, "we can pull them off."

The removable signs would resolve the situation, he told commissioners.

"They would be marked, especially under the use of emergency situations," he said.

Commission chairman Doug Thompson disagreed with the proposed solution. Speaking about his campaign experience with magnetic signs on his car, Thompson said "generally about a month and half in they peel off, and you'll leave them on the side of the road."

McAuslan said he still has magnetic signs for vehicles from former coroner Larry Lee's administration.

"They were in good shape, I think," he said. "I never lost one on the road."

Thompson asked if McAuslan would leave them on his vehicle at all times "unless for some reason you would deem them inappropriate."

McAuslan said he would take them off when parked.

"We don't want to provide kids in the area with coroner signs," he said. "They would be put on when we do an emergency response."

Commissioner Travis Becker questioned the circumstances that McAuslan would not want his vehicle identified.

"A questionable area is more of a questionable situation," the coroner said.

"There are times we go into an area and we've got signs that say coroner on them (with) onlookers and family members, we've got the potential there (for problems)," McAuslan said.

When his agency responded to the Wyoming Honor Farm prison in Riverton last year, institution officials "did not want the markings on there that say coroner," he said.

Becker disagreed with his assessment.

"People will get upset. People are always upset when they see a policeman or ambulance or a coroner vehicle," he said.

"I believe I'm the professional on this situation, and the decision should be mine," McAuslan responded.

Instead of removable magnetic signs, some commissioners supported permanent decals that McAuslan could cover with a magnet at a sensitive scene.

"I would begrudgingly agree with that," Becker said.

Christensen said the proposal for a magnetic cover on the decal arose after his meeting with McAuslan. He called it a good option.

"Then it's up to the coroner's office to cover them when they need to be covered," Christensen said.

Commission vice chairman Pat Hickerson agreed with Becker.

"I think we should have permanent signs on the coroner's vehicle," he said.

Hickerson questioned the legitimacy of problems encountered by the coroner at a death scene.

"If you have an issue where there's family (enraged) ... why would you not call law enforcement and have law enforcement do crowd control? That would be an easy thing to do," he said.

Commissioner Keja Whiteman said she wants a resolution in the matter.

"I was hoping this was going to be wrapped up," she said.

McAuslan agreed: "I want it done, too. ... A lot of money, a lot of time has been invested in this, I think way too much."

Christensen said the debate raises the need to revise the county policy to require the decals.

"In terms of a follow-up, I'm convinced we need to strengthen the policy in capital revolving," he said, referring to the fund that purchases county government vehicles and other high-dollar equipment.

Thompson said the discussion with the coroner will continue.

"I don't think we're going to come to a conclusion today," he said. "We'll take it under advisement."

McAuslan said, "I assume I'll be hearing from you."

"I'm sure you will," Thompson replied.

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