Thursday, August 19, 2010
Thomas responds to complaint
To the Citizens of Marshall County:
I, C.W. “Chuck” Thomas, served as your elected county coroner from January, 1992 until December, 2003.
The Mississippi Ethics Commission has fully investigated my tenure as county coroner. Questions have arisen concerning the 2003 year, specifically, an amount totalling $3,755.00. I would like to take this opportunity to present to you the facts in determining whether there was any wrong-doing on my part or if this is a political move to discredit me.
The monies in questions were paid to the Holly Springs Funeral Home by Marshall County by order of the board of supervisors as follows:
$240.00......(6) Body Bags
$2,765.00.....Transport of Bodies from scene to Jackson, MS, for autopsy
Before I took office as coroner, I went to the board of supervisors concerning any potential conflict of interest. The board attorney stated that as long as my father, Charles Thomas Sr., would not benefit directly from my position as coroner, business should continue as usual.
Business as usual started in May of 1987, when a tragic accident left two victims on hot asphalt for over two hours. That is when the county made arrangements with the local funeral homes to be on call at all times to transport deceased bodies from scenes to prevent any family from having to endure this again.
In our efforts to provide this service, as coroner, these calls were divided between the local funeral homes. Until now, this was not questioned; however, some explanation has been required concerning only the 2003 year.
Large quantities of body bags were not kept on hand by the coroner’s office. When a bag was needed, individual families incurred that cost. During 2003, there were six (6) cases where this cost could not be recovered, and was billed to Marshall County by Holly Springs Funeral Home at the actual cost of the bag.
The $2,765.00 that Holly Springs Funeral Home billed the county in 2003 was for charges that resulted from transporting multiple decedents from Marshall County to Mississippi Mortuary in Jackson, MS, where autopsies were performed. The funeral home provided the vehicle, fuel and personnel who stayed during the autopsies and transported the bodies back, typically a 14- to 18-hour procedure.
As for pauper funerals, those were handled directly by the board of supervisors and did not involve the county coroner’s office.
In 2003, there were 237 coroner calls. Often, these cases were either accidental or violent deaths that required blood and body fluid precautions. For that reason, I contend that my use of body bags was not excessive.
Also, over 50 counties in Mississippi have coroners who are directly connected to a funeral home, with at least 15 county coroners being directly connected with the county contracted ambulance service. My situation is neither unique nor unusual.
Most all of you know that I wear a white shirt and tie every day, as a symbol of respect to my profession. The bodies that I handled were also respected by timely removal and handling of your loved ones.
The political world we live in today has caused me to have to address these sensitive areas. If anyone whose family was touched by the office I held and has been hurt by these reminders, I am truly sorry, but I have been forced to account for the county’s board-approved reimbursement to my father’s funeral home.
I was given an opportunity by Tom Hood to pay $4,100.00 to the Mississippi Ethics Commission when he interviewed me some three to four weeks ago, and I was told that this investigation would be sealed and disappear. That felt like an admission of guilt to me.
Instead, I chose for this matter to be brought to our county, because I have lived a transparent life in this county for 47 years. I welcome your questions and your comments and covet your prayers as the political wheels continue to turn.
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