Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Accidental Coroner: I Found Out The Office Had A Lot Of Power

I'm not sure why this is an item in the Star's "Behind Closed Doors" column instead of a news story, but it suggests that nobody may be on duty come Monday in the coroner's office to perform autopsies. Dr. Stephen Radentz, whose firm originally had a 5-year contract with the office before Marion Co. Coroner Kenneth Ackles terminated it six months ago without explanation, had said late last week he would go ahead and perform autopsies through Dec. 19 in order to avoid a gap in services. He's had a change of heart, however, after nobody from the coroner's office or the city would communicate with him after he extended the offer. The Star reports:

Friday's storm apparently knocked out the lights at the Marion County coroner's office. It was, coincidentally, the same day that its soon-to-be-departed team of forensic pathologists had threatened to quit taking on new autopsies.

Whether the chief forensic pathologist, Dr. Stephen Radentz, will show up Monday to turn the lights back on was unclear.

In a heated dispute full of accusations and leaks to the news media, Coroner Kenneth Ackles and Radentz have stopped nearly all communication. Ackles earlier this year terminated a five-year contract with Radentz's firm, an order that takes effect Dec. 19. Ackles has yet to give any explanation for the termination.

Ackles has apparently been trying to hire a Virginia forensic pathologist with a troubled past, though he won't confirm the potential hiring of Dr. Joye Carter.

Radentz offered last week to continue taking autopsy cases until the end of his contract, even though he said the normal practice is to have a months-long transition period.

But by Friday, when he got no response from any city or coroner officials, he said he would not work alongside the new hire and may not come in at all Monday.

The next chapter in this saga won't be known until then.

So when tomorrow rolls around, we may or may not have a licensed forensic pathologists at work in the coroner's office. Ackles, meanwhile, seems not at all concerned about the crisis surrounding his office based on an interview he gave the Star's Jon Murray. To hear Ackles explain it, it's just a bunch of disgrunted Republicans. "I think Republicans had this office for 50 years. . . . And I've been in office for one year and 11 months, and everything that I do is wrong," he tells Murray. He says the average person in his office has worked there for 15 or 20 years, and "I got the same people." In fact, several of the more qualified persons have left the office since Ackles took over and have been replaced by people with virtually no experience.

Murray's interview takes a turn towards the comical when Ackles actually claims he's more qualified than his predecessor, Dr. James McGoff, an emergency room physician, in response to Murray's suggestion that his lack of qualifications is a source of criticism against him. He responds:

No. It might have a little impact, but the main criticism, I don't need to tell you what it is. Me being a chiropractor, technically I'm more qualified than the guy that had the office. You know why? I'm a businessperson. I've been in business for 20 years. I do accident cases, I've been to court, I know depositions, I know lawyers and I know how to run a business.

The thought "accidental coroner" comes to mind as Ackles explains to Murray how he come to run for the office. "I have to laugh about that first." "It was strictly by accident." "I was asked to run, and I checked it out and couldn't see any reason why I didn't want to run." He doesn't say who specifically asked him to run for the office other than to concede it was a person from the Marion Co. Democratic Party. He also concedes that the power of the office was an allure to him. He tells Murray:

I think maybe power. I found out the coroner's office has a lot of power. I never thought about it. . . . Once I was elected, it was about two or three weeks before I came to the office. They had lunches for me, and I never showed up.

Well, I'll tell you why. I had to figure it out. I believe that. Once I decided to do something, I always make it. And I had not decided . . . I had to -- being the coroner -- figure out the situation.

You see, I'm kind of an emotional guy . . . I'm a very passionate guy, that's why I'm good for this job. When a decedent dies, I feel it. You know, I do. I do . . .

When you really look at it, I'm blessed. I'm really blessed. And it's a little discomfort. But you know, let's face it. Martin Luther King paved the way, and by golly, I'm the coroner of Marion County.

Pretty scary when you stop to think about what Ackles said in this interview.


Anonymous said...

Really scary. Ackles actually admits he is the coroner as a "joke"? And, also mentioned in the article is the fact that Ackles feels he answers to no one. Reality check, fake doc, your budget comes from the CCC and the Mayor has a lot of pull there too, dummy. If you think you're above the law and not responsible to anyone, think again. I keep telling you people what a mess this county is in with Ackles in charge. Maybe now the rest of you will start listening.

Anonymous said...

Is there anything a citizen can do to initiate impeachment or recall proceedings against this coroner? This is dangerous to have this man in charge of that office.

Wilson46201 said...

Indiana has no impeachment or recall procedures whatsoever for local officials. Only two entities have any outside control of a County Coroner: the City-County Council has budgetary control and the County Prosecutor can prosecute criminal activities. The Governor or Mayor have no power over the Coroner's Office.

Voters have their say every four years.

Anonymous said...

Well, now that as someone posted a while back, Democrats can win everything in Marion County that isn't nailed down, hopefully, and, prayfully, they'll get some better qualified people! Republicans, generally speaking, seem to atleast people who are minimumly qualified to hold the office they are elected to. Mayvbe, over time, the Democrates will be able to do the same. They didn't with this Ackles Nut Job, but hell, as a Republican, I took it for granted that Dr. Lucht, MD, would win. But now that Democrats have a nearly 12,000 vote advantage vis a vie straight party line voting, the responsibility is on them to provide that at least candidates are qualified. Acles isn't. He's a hack,and, if I am correct, is a crony of Madam Julie Carson.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to add, that, we, Marion County Citizens, have an elected Surveyor, who isn't a surveyor. True, Republicans filled these none descript jobs with party people, but who can say that Jack Irwin, a Surveyor, wasn't better qualified than Barton, who while as a lesson in preservernce, is no surveyor, she's a hack. Akles, is corner. He Has zerocredintials other than DEMOCRATE, Help. The MCDP, so used to losing, so new to winning, needs a better screening process.

Anonymous said...

3:11, at least Barton doesn't meddle, and pretty much leaves the surveying duties to her staff. She isn't on a power trip thinking she owns the office and has supreme power.

Anonymous said...

Oops! The power went off at the county morgue. Did "Dr" Accles do anything about it? Was he out there rallying to get the power back on? Did he care if anyone's loved ones were decomposing when the cooler went down? That would be too much for him to admit considering he never steps foot in the autopsy room. Does Accles really think that a competant forensic pathologist (Radentz) will want to share space or take the blame for an incoming "pathologist" who hasn't worked in the past five years? Accles and the deputy coroner, Ballew, refuse to talk with Radentz to ease the transition but yet Accles supposedly (Indy Star fluff piece) cares so much about the deceased and their families. If he really cared he'd want to ensure a smooth transition.

Indianapolis residents: get your shovels ready...not only may you be responsible for your family members after death with no skilled forensic pathologists around but also may be requested to bail out Dr. Accles (in the form of monetary compensation for ineptitude) as he digs his grave deeper every time he opens his mouth.

Anonymous said...

Having a licensed surveyor as county surveyor isn't important in counties that can afford to hire a licensed surveyor. However, most counties don't have the resources. There are even some counties with no licensed surveyors.

What they are supposed to do, which includes dealing with legal drains and section corner perpetuation, actually does require an LS. With the advent of things like GIS, not having a qualified person involved can begin to get scary. Decisions made, or not made, in that office effect every property owner.

What most people don't realize is that you pretty much need a BS in land surveying engineering to start the licensing route. Purdue graduates less than 10 a year and not all of them stick around.

I could explain more about the neccessity of the surveyor's office, but it isn't as self-explanatory or glamorous as the coronor's office. The post is about him and how he has f'd everything up that he touches.

Be well.

Anonymous said...

Kenneth Ackles takes office, then suddenly county equipment starts to come up 'missing.' On his watch, property of dead people has been stolen, bodies cremated without notifications. On his watch, he fires the best forensic pathology group in the State of Indiana...and with no replacement forthcoming!

There is only one word for it: incompetence.

Now Ackles is advocating a previously disgraced medical examiner from Texas take over...let's see, Ackles wants to fire a firm with an impeccable reputation and hire a QUACK!

Ackles advocates Joye Carter taking over the job of pathologist. This person nearly lost her license in Texas for allowing an unlicensed pathologist to perform autopsies! To any competent elected official, that fact alone would disqualify her from a position as chief forensic pathologist under one's watch.

We all would suffer if he hires her. When it comes to getting a murder conviction, the prosecutor's started at a deficit, because defense attorneys will disgrace Carter by presenting her record, prior adverse civil jury verdict & credentials in front of juries in murder trial.

Joye Carter is a textbook replication of Napune V. Illinois and all defense lawyers will use it to turn the case. In Napune v. Illinois "the truthfulness & reliability of a given witness may well be determinative of guilt or innocence, and it is upon such subtle factors as the possible interest of the witness in testifying falsely that a defendant's life or liberty may depend." They will bring up the fact Joye Carter's office was previously accused of evidence tampering in connection with a murder case....add to that the current fact that Ackles' has a documented "problem" with keeping both county property and that of dead people secured, and juries will have far too many outside factors to establish doubts about a case!

That federal jury verdict for $250,000.00 for Joye Carter's office wrongfully discharging an employee who exposed illegal activity in her office will without a doubt be on every defense attorney closing arguments!!!

The fact Joye Carter is being considered is demonstration of Kenneth Ackles' incompetence and it is reprehensible and insulting to the voters of Marion County.

Anonymous said...

And yet again, I must discover the goings-on of my office via the internet. Is it too difficult to send one's employees an email to let them know what the hell is going on? Post it? Smoke signals? God forbid, a phone call?

Everyone is speaking of impeaching the coroner. Although there has been no previous precedent set, I'm willing to bet my salary that it will happen. Be warned, that's not much money. Entry level crime lab secretaries make more than I do, a lowly field investigator.

Regarding the Indy Star's interview with Dr. Ackles: I'm sorry that reported had to sit through that. It is incredibly painful to listen to that man speak. And everything he stated was full of errors. Dr. John McGoff was far more qualified for the position than Dr. Ackles could ever dream of being. The average number of years of employment for MCCO employees is not even close to what he states. HE does not care about all of the citizens of Marion County, just the ones that look like him. There's so much more, I don't have enough space to continue.

Yes, unfortunately, Dr. Ackles is the coroner, as he states so often. But at least he's cleaned it up a bit. He used to say, "I'm the F**King coroner." Classy.

Anonymous said...

it's just a bunch of disgrunted Republicans. "I think Republicans had this office. . . And I've been in office for one year and 11 months, and everything that I do is wrong,"

What a d**khead. When all else fails, blame everyone else.

Anonymous said...

But now that Democrats have a nearly 12,000 vote advantage vis a vie straight party line voting, the responsibility is on them to provide that at least candidates are qualified

Why should the 'Rats put up qualified people? The 'Rats in control want stupid subordinates. To keep the money flowing through the Machine properly.

The 'Rats could have put up Mao Tse Tung, Josef Stalin, and Fidel Castro on the ticket and the straight party voters STILL would vote for them.

Wilson46201 said...

The 52,814 Indianapolis Republican voters that also cast a straight party ticket would do so even if Jefferson Davis, Augusto Pinochet and Benito Mussolini were on it ...

Anonymous said...

Wilson is right. Neither party has a corner on straight-ticket nonsense voting. There are goofs on each side of the aisle.

Evidence: for every Jim Bradford there's a Sweet Pea. For every Phil Hinkle there's a Glenn Howard. Catch my drift?

And straight-ticket voting brought us Doris Ann Sadler. She's smart, but incompetent. In four years of her reign, not one election went off well. Multiple reaosns, not the least of whichi was the blatant political shenanigans on more than one legal challenge to ballots and council district lines. Foolish endeavors that cost us money, and were doomed to lose.

A few corrections or amplifications on earlier posts:

Mary Catherine Barton is one smart lady. She is not a hack, tho. Far from it. She's run for everything imagineable, and when no one else filed to run for surveyor, she won at slating. She kept qualified people in the office and stays out of their way.

I'm not sure about the impeachment thing. Gary, do you know?

Ackles is no hack. Hear this, citizens: Ms. Carson did not support him for slating. She didn't really get involved in that race at slating. Not many people knew Kenneth. I'd never support a chripractor for anything, just based on the generally fraudulent nature of their business. (Save the hateful posts...there's a reason they're not admitted to most hospitals)

Democrats are new to the power thing. Further evidence: three lousy council presidents in three years. Two of them--Talley and Boyd--are wonderful gentlemen, but were horrid presidents. And the third, well...go ahead and build your own joke.

I am willing to bet the next Democratic slating, in late January or early Feb., for municipal elections, will be an improvement. And by 2008, the next time county elections roll around, it will improve even more.

Not that citizens should accept this tardy awakening by the new party in power. With power comes responsiblity.

But they've been out of power so long, and were mistreated in so many forums, that it's taking awhile to get the hang of it.

Stay on them. Demand good government.

It's coming.

Anonymous said...

Evidence: for every Jim Bradford there's a Sweet Pea.

And Jim Bradford hangs out at the peashakes? Not hardly.

I'm not sure about the impeachment thing. Gary, do you know?

It's been discussed here in other postings. There is no impeachment, only removal by election or if Ken Ackles is found guilty of a felony then per state law a felon cannot serve in office and he must resign, and the 'Rat party chooses his replacement.

Hear this, citizens: Ms. Carson did not support him for slating

Now why is suddenly someone bringing this up? My Jedi sense tells me someone is backpedaling. Wanting to be far away from this landmine when it explodes. Without Julia Carson's support at slating 'Rats don't get put on the ballot. Period.

Stay on them. Demand good government.

Then vote GOP. Its obvious the 'Rats are well out of their league.

It's coming.

Vote out the 'Rats.

Anonymous said...

Good golly, Hail, try to stay up with the rest of us:

I said Julia didn't support Ackles at slating...which is true. She had many other races in which there were challengers, so she just didn't get involved in that one, as I recall.

Believe it or not, no one really thought we'd win those down-ballot offices. We had high hopes for Mike Rodman, perhaps the best-qualified county treasurer ever. Julia and her throngs didn't put out "advice" on the surveyor and coroner races at slating. Oversight, perhaps, but that's the way it was.

Now, she's weak politically--I'm not sure her "advice" on the slating floor has the same cartel it used to have.

And I hear from reliable sources, that since he got elected, she's tried to force some relatives or friends on him, and to his credit, he refused to hire them. Not that I'm an apologist for the goof, but that's the street rumor.

I'm still pleased the Democrats have taken control of most parts of this county. You Republicans had your chance...via UniGov, engineered to keep you in power for almost 4 decades. That's long enough, to hide a philandering mayor, cover up another mayor's absolute hatefulness and iron-handed attitude, and protect incomptent clerks.

Enough indeed.

No, Bradford doesn't hang out at peashake houses, to my knowledge. That's the domain of Sweet Pea and Tony Duncan, Sen. Howard, et al

But he is goofy enough to have done so. He was the Republican Ying to the Democrats' Frank Short Yang for several years--an embarrassment. I'm told he's quitting for personal reasons.

I spoke with a lawyer who does a lot of election work over the weekend. He wasn't entirely sure that the coroner could NOT be removed for other reasons. That's the reason I asked Gary if he knew.

I know this: I watched on Brighthouse govt. channel as Ackles went toe-to-toe with the Criminal Justice Planning Council, or whatever Judge Bradford's group is called. There were multiple opportunities for the Dems there--PeaShake, the Mayor and Frank Anderson--to jump to Ackles' defense.

The silence was deafening. And they looked plenty agonized over it.

Gary R. Welsh said...

This has been discussed on this blog a couple of times previously. No, you can't impeach the coroner. He could be removed if he were found guilty of a felony offense--recall the recent IPS school board member who had to resign because of a felony conviction.

Anonymous said...

And I hear from reliable sources, that since he got elected, she's tried to force some relatives or friends on him, and to his credit, he refused to hire them.

I was informed a couple months ago or so that Julia was trying to sink her claws into the Coroner's office by having Ken Ackles stuff it with her cronies.

Ackles went toe-to-toe with the Criminal Justice Planning Council, or whatever Judge Bradford's group is called. There were multiple opportunities for the Dems there--PeaShake, the Mayor and Frank Anderson--to jump to Ackles' defense.

The silence was deafening. And they looked plenty agonized over it.

I didn't get a chance to see that on Channel 16, though I would theorize the reason the 'Rats did not come to Ken Ackles' defense was because Julia told them not to. Payback for Ackles not hiring her cronies. Don't believe me? Why did the 'Rats all circle the wagons around a jerk like Ron Gibson when he was accused of public intox, assault & battery on a police officer yadda yadda yadda. and yet stand idly by while Ken Ackles runs full steam ahead into the iceberg? It doesn't make a lot of sense. Ken Ackles pissed off the big 'Rats and they seemingly are just allowing him to sink.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Hail, you sure can make leaps of faith and non-logic.

The reason the Sheriff, Council President and Mayor did not rush to Ackles's defense in that meeting, was that, regardless of party, he had made a complete ass of himself.

In that setting, they would not sit quietly because Julia asked them to.

Not even close...

Anonymous said...

for every Jim Bradford there's a Sweet Pea. For every Phil Hinkle there's a Glenn Howard. Catch my drift?

Indeed I do. Preach anon 9:13, preach!