Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ackles Says "Trust Me"

Marion County Coroner Kenneth Ackles' office is already under investigation for missing property from dead persons, mishandling of the bodies of deceased persons whose death may have involved foul play and obstruction of justice. Now, he asks us to trust him that autopsies will be performed after this Friday when the current contractor will cease performing autopsies for the county because Ackles terminated its contract six months ago and has yet to hire new forensic pathologists to perform the work. The Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy reports:

A flap involving the Marion County coroner's office could stall or jeopardize homicide investigations and prosecutions, officials warned Monday.

Forensic pathologists under contract until Dec. 19 will start no new autopsies after Thursday because of the time required to finish ongoing work.

County Coroner Kenneth Ackles, who ended the contract with Forensic Pathology Associates of Indiana, told city and county officials at a meeting Monday that there would be no interruption in service but offered few details about his plans.

"We have located several candidates," Ackles said. "We will announce a decision shortly, within 21 days."

County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said he was alarmed at the possibility that no new autopsies would be performed for more than two weeks.

"We need to know the situation, and we need to have a backup plan," Brizzi said.

Brizzi said there already is a backlog of 35 murder cases that can't move forward because the autopsy reports aren't available.

Dr. Stephen Radentz, the lead partner in the pathology firm, said after the meeting that there is no backlog of cases from his end. He said there could be a lag with coroner's employees copying, filing and distributing final reports.

However, the average case takes eight to 12 weeks to complete, so it won't be possible to finish all pending cases, he said. Radentz said he has been pushing for a transition plan from the coroner for months before finally agreeing to a Dec. 1 date as the last possible moment to begin wrapping up.

"It will be like going into a typical hospital, with patients in various states, and taking out all the doctors and telling new ones to figure it out," Radentz said. "There will definitely be problems."

Ackles, a chiropractor, got into a shouting match with officials questioning him about plans to avoid a backup, which Brizzi said could complicate murder prosecutions and contribute to prison crowding.

"I'm the coroner of Marion County," Ackles said repeatedly, "and I'm telling you there won't be an interruption in service."

This spiteful move by Ackles in firing Radentz and his staff is going to prove very costly to Marion County taxpayers. With a near-record number of murders during the past year, the county will have to pay the outgoing forensic pathologists, who are taking jobs elsewhere around the country, at the rate of $1,500 per day to come back and testify at cases where their testimony is critical. Even worse, bodies will begin piling up in the county's morgue after this Friday until the coroner's office signs a contract with at least one new forensic pathologist. Who in their right mind would accept a job in the Marion County Coroner's office after doing a simple "Google" search of all the stories involving problems within the office over the past year? And if Ackles hires the one candidate who has been rumored for the past several weeks, expect a major uproar.

Because there is a such a small candidate pool of potential applicants, it is more than likely that any replacement would come from out-of-state. A new hire would have to be licensed by the State of Indiana before he/she could perform any autopsies for the county. As of about a week ago, no potential candidates had applied for a license with the State of Indiana. It could be many weeks before Marion County has a qualified person in place to perform autopsies, let alone the team of about three which will be needed for the long-term to meet the county's and surrounding counties' needs.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

long-term to meet the county's and surrounding counties' needs.

Which surrounding counties contract to Marion County for these services? I suppose Shelby, and maybe Johnson and Hancock? Surely Hamilton can take care of itself.

Ken Ackles has no plan. He's waiting for Julia to tell him what the plan is going to be. If there were a method to impeach a coroner this is a shining example of one who should be impeached.

Anonymous said...

Typical Center Township response, when pushed: don't push me, I'm all-powerful, back off.

This is disgusting.

Here's a study in contrasts. We Democrats giggled when Ackles and Mary Catherine Barton were elected in 2004 (she is surveyor). Neither has any qualifications for their job.

But Ms. Barton studied the responsibilities and has, by most accounts, stepped aside for qualified surveyors to run the official performance of duties.
She's a smart lady.

The bone-cracker, by contrast, sticks to his guns, fire competent people because he fusses with them, and thinks he's God.

Dems have a responsibility now to find top-notch candidates for these jobs. They're probably going to win everything that's not nailed down, for quite some time.

Governing is a serious business. The learning curve here, from being a back-bencher who throws stink bombs, to actually running an office, is evidently too large for some folks to handle. And we all pay.

Anonymous said...

Read very carefully, citizens of Marion County: the leadership of the Coroner's office is a disgrace to public service. I want to make very clear that the true victims of this charade are the families of Marion County who have been lied to about their pending cases, deceived about the property of their loved ones, and tortured with the cremation of their loved ones bodies without their permission. Does everyone really understand that? People died and they never told the families.

And what is Kenneth Ackles' response to the media about that event? It was the fault of the Police. What a tremendous example of leadership--blame another agency for your lack of follow-up. Blaming another agency is unacceptable. The Police would lay down their lives to protect your Deputies at a crime scene and your response is to blame them when your office falls apart?

And what about day-to-day nightmares in the Coroner's office? Family heirlooms are stuffed in boxes and not returned to the families. Case files are lost. And although there are many Deputies who are highly trained with impressive credentials, there are Deputy Coroners on staff who have no medical training at all investigating deaths. These individuals were hired as a political favor. Can you imagine a bartender coming to the scene of a homicide and investigating a case? It's happening.

And let's get it out on the table since we're at the crisis point now. The candidate that Ackles is banking on to replace an esteemed forensic pathologist nearly lost their license to practice Medicine in Texas due to allowing a non-licensed physician to perform over 200 autopsies before being caught. What more does the city need to hear?

Apparently the city is waiting for the office to completely stop running before intervening. Indianpolis, the facts were presented to you this week. You had the chance to act and you let the citizens down by "taking his word" that he has a plan. There is no plan. I say again: there is no plan. Do not wait until more families are victimized by this office.

Kenneth Ackles demonstrated the strength of his "word" the day he took an oath and was sworn into office. He took an oath to serve the citizens of Marion County.

There are families who couldn't bury their loved ones because he gave his word.

There are decedents whose cases will never be brought to trial in court because he gave his word.

Massive amounts of money and property have been stolen because he gave his word.

Giving your word is an act of honor. Honor is something Kenneth Ackles cannot begin to comprehend.

indyernie said...

Gary, How can we get rid of the Coroner? What's the process? Impeach? How long will it take? Please respond.

Anonymous said...

Bang head here:

"X"

Anonymous said...

IndyErnie: I believe it would boil down to convicting Ken Ackles of a felony, and by law he cannot serve as a convicted felon and must resign.

Of course the Dems would choose his replacement.

Advance Indiana said...

There are about 20 surrounding counties who have contracted to use the services of Marion Co.'s forensic pathologists for their autopsies, who will also be affected by the loss of the contractor. There is no impeachment proceeding. A felony conviction would force his removal from office, however.

Anonymous said...

Kenneth Ackles only takes responsiblity when it is convenient for him to do so. He engages officials in a shouting match when pressed for details about the future of the office that he is running. He told them in no uncertain terms that he is the boss. I am curious to know why he seems so offended that anyone would ask? We have the RIGHT to know. You represent the people. The people have the RIGHT to know how you will handle this situation. The city is clearly in distress over his decision and he is acting like it is none of our business. If he already has people in the wings, why the secrecy? Why not just provide the details if he has nothing to hide? I'll tell you why. Because they have no one. In fact, they've offered the job to many pathologists in Indiana and each one of them refused the offer. What physician in his right mind would come to work for someone who FIRED his staff? Who would accept that job? Stay tuned for that one...you'll love the answer. But never mind that, because Ackles is the boss, and I guess we're all supposed to just bow down and wait for this ELECTED OFFICIAL to fill the public in on what's going to happen with death investigation after Friday.

When a situation arises that looks ominous (READ: Carl Southern), he suddenly has no interest in being the boss. Suddenly, the boss blames IPD. It's IPD's fault that Carl Southern's family wasn't notified of his death. Whose responsibility is it to identify a decedent and then notify the next-of-kin of their death? It's the CORONER'S. The Police have no role in that.

When money comes up missing last year, the boss blames the new Deputies on network TV. Newsflash: your new Deputies were OFFENDED that you would implicate them in a crime. The only thing the new Deputies were guilty of was bad timing--they were hired on in good faith not knowing what chaos was to follow. What does Ackles do? The boss says he didn't investigate the alleged theft and when pressed he conveniently handed responsibility over to an outside agnecy. Gee Ken, I thought you were the boss?

In light of recent events, Chief Deputy Alfarena Ballew had better wake up to the fact that when he is backed into a corner (and that day is fast approaching), Kenneth Ackles will blame her, too. He will throw his staff under the bus to save himself. And when he does, he will be standing alone on the steps of 521, telling the voters of Marion County that it's gonna be okay, because he is the CORONER, and he has a plan. He's the boss. Rock on.

Anonymous said...

Common Americans, let us all be reminded that we are lead by faith. We have faith in President Bush's leadership. We have faith that what he says is correct and we never questioned him unless we wanted our patriotism called into question. We have faith that he can turn Iraq into a democracy and that civil war will not errupt. Our Repubilcan president tells us this and we have had faith in him.

Now let's continue to have that same level of faith in all people, even the coroner. If he says it's taken care of, let us have faith that it is.

God Bless

Abdul said...

Gary,

I've got some new info posted on Indianabarrister.com about the coroner's pick for chief pathologist. I think you'll find it interesting.

Abdul

Anonymous said...

the county isn't paying anyone. The prosecutor has been serving subpeonas on the pathologists as if they were regular witnesses, and then have forced them to return to the state on their own dime. Once they are here obeying a subpoena, the prosecutor slaps another subpeona on the pathologist for a different case.

It is repugnant that this is going on.

Anonymous said...

In response to the "God Bless" comment by Anonymous, you don't know what you are talking about. Those of us who actually work in the Coroner's office know what the truth is, and you have no idea of the impending disaster for Indianapolis. Just watch TV this week and be sure you're sitting down.

God Bless