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Coroner not giving up on vehicle spat

Coroner not giving up on vehicle spat

Jan 20, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

A fresh line of reasoning from Fremont County Coroner Ed McAuslan failed to persuade Fremont County Commissioners that the coroner vehicles do not need to have county insignia. McAuslan met with the commission at its Jan. 15 meeting.

The coroner's office has two SUVs it uses to investigate deaths. The vehicles are unmarked but have flashing, red emergency lights. McAuslan has refused to allow graphics to be put on them, arguing that the decals would attract attention that would interfere with his office's investigations.

"I'm just going to ask the commission to reconsider their vote, and then we'll just end it for today," McAuslan said.

The commission has reaffirmed its position several times, saying decals should mark all county vehicles as Fremont County property. The commissioners have granted an exception for undercover sheriff's vehicles.

The most recent vote came at the commission's Jan. 8 meeting when the commission refined their vehicle graphics policy and did not include an exception for the coroner.

McAuslan contended at the Jan. 15 meeting that the sheriff's office does not use its unmarked vehicles for undercover investigations but rather employs them in criminal investigations.

Vehicle comparison

The coroner's office uses its vehicles for the same purpose, McAuslan argued, and should not have to bear decals either.

"The sheriff's office has vehicles that are unmarked," McAuslan said. "They do have red lights and sirens; they're used for investigations. The coroner's office has vehicles that have red lights and sirens, that are unmarked, that are used for criminal investigations."

"Undercover cars are covert," McAuslan said later. "They have absolutely no ties to law enforcement."

He pointed out the sheriff's vehicles labeled "undercover" have flashing red lights and sirens.

The sheriff's unmarked vehicles and the coroner's both investigate criminal activity, McAuslan said.

"So we are performing the same function," he said.

At the meeting, McAuslan concluded his petition regarding the decals saying, "For what we're doing, we're better off without them."

More to come?

No commissioners made a motion to reconsider the county board's position. Commissioner Stephanie Kessler was absent.

"By your next meeting I'll have another response for you," Mc-Auslan told commissioners.

The commission meets Jan. 29.

McAuslan said he would meet with the supervisors of his satellite offices to draft a response.

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