Saturday, July 13, 2024

Colorado Coroner Accused of Going on Strike, Leaving Body to Rot amid Salary Dispute

'I think there were ways to handle this more professionally...'

(Jacob Bruns, Headline USA) A Colorado coroner allegedly refused over the Memorial Day weekend to pick up any additional bodies until local supervisors agreed to discuss a pay raise, leaving at least one body to rot in a field for several hours as medics sought another alternative, the Daily Mail reported.

Prowers County Coroner Tommy Dunagan, an elected official, argued that he should not have to work more than 20 hours per week in order to earn his part-time salary, refusing to pick up a body over the holiday weekend because he “had his hours in” for that week already.

As a result, Ron Cook, chairman of the County Commission, noted that the body was left lying in a field while officials waited for someone who was legally allowed to transport it.

Dunagan agreed to arrive at the scene only after commissioners agreed to hold a special meeting to discuss his salary.

That meeting, however, proved to be more about holding him to account for his dereliction of duty than to renegotiating his pay.

They said Dunagan “took an oath as the coroner… to take care of any deaths in the county” and had failed to fulfill his responsibility.

Cook called it a “very unfortunate” situation, claiming to know the deceased and lamenting the open, public nature of the salary dispute.

“It was very upsetting that this conversation had to go public,” he said. “I think there were ways to handle this more professionally.”

Dunagan, meanwhile, claimed that the local media had been fed information by the County Commission and had exaggerated what happened, insisting that the body was not “left lying in a field because I refused to respond.”

Moreover, he accused the commissioners of inviting “several uninterested parties and my political rivals to the meeting”—an act that he said was “improper” and “disrespectful” to the deceased.

Dunagan was also grilled by residents who attended the meeting to comment publicly.

One resident called his actions “inappropriate,” and another said they were “despicable.”

Another Prowers County resident suggested that the coroner chose in inopportune time to try to engage in salary negotiations.

“At that moment you decided to dig your heels in and leave a human body, disrespectfully, waiting for you to decide whether or not they are paying you enough money.”

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