Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Coroner Now Blames Contract Costs For Termination

Six months after he terminated Forensic Pathology Associates of Indiana's contract with the Marion Co. Coroner's office, Coroner Kenneth Ackles is now speaking publicly for the first time because of "unforeseen costs" under the 5-year contract his office negotiated only last year through his chief deputy, Alfie Ballew. The Star's Murray writes:

Marion County's coroner fired the team he had hired to perform autopsies after less than nine months in part because of unforeseen costs in the contract, according to the coroner's chief deputy.

A provision of the quickly negotiated contract made his office responsible for autopsy supplies and services that cost far more than Coroner Kenneth Ackles had expected -- as much as $30,000 a month, his office estimated.

The fired pathologists will leave the office today, six months after Ackles terminated the contract without ever publicly explaining why. But correspondence and other documents obtained through a public records request shed light on mounting costs Ackles had not anticipated

The terminated contract stated clearly that the county would pay for all supplies the pathologists, Forensic Pathology Associates of Indiana, needed to perform unlimited autopsies for Marion County. The agreement signed by Ackles in September 2005 also allowed the firm to use the facility to perform autopsies for other counties.

By February, Ackles and his new chief deputy, Alfarena Ballew, began questioning the unexpected costs and the use of county-purchased supplies to profit off more than a dozen out-of-county autopsies each month. Monthly costs far outpaced what Ballew said she and Ackles had expected.

The fired pathology firm and its predecessor handled about 200 autopsies a year for about 25 Central Indiana counties, charging a base rate of $800.

Ackles said Friday he has more faith in the contract with a new chief pathologist, Dr. Joye Carter, who will take over autopsy duties today at the coroner's office, 521 W. McCarty St., alongside up to four doctors yet to be hired.

Ackles plans to hire doctors and autopsy staff directly to help control costs and to let his office benefit from outside autopsy fees.

To really get a perspective on this story you have to look at the circumstances surrounding IU's termination of it's long-standing contract with the county last year. In comparing the two contracts, Murray writes:

The payment promised to Radentz's firm in 2006, $858,000, was more than what the IU doctors would have received under the old contract, $741,600. But otherwise, the new contract copied the previous agreement nearly word for word.

Ackles and Radentz said that was intentional -- a similar agreement could more quickly win the endorsement of city lawyers and the city controller.

But the new pact had one key difference. It shifted responsibility for buying supplies and other services from IU and the doctors -- who often used the autopsy room as a teaching tool -- to the coroner.

Radentz said those costs shouldn't have been a surprise. IU's contribution outside the contract had approached $400,000 a year to pay for those supplies and services, he estimated.

The story doesn't discuss, however, IU's reason for terminating the contract. AI sources claim IU was fed up with carrying the county's cost for conducting autopsies. It hadn't received an increase in its $741,600 contract in many years, and it was eating all the counties' costs. IU was subsidizing the salaries of its staff forensic pathologists who were delivering the services under the contract, including Dr. Steven Radentz. Also, after Ackles took over as coroner, IU went months without being paid because Ackles' office failed to process their invoices for payment.

Once the coroner negotiated a contract with Radentz firm in place of IU, everything changed. Radentz' firm had to operate at a profit in order to stay in business; IU, a public university did not. What the Star story doesn't tell you, is that the $117,000 increase in the contract for Radentz' firm, plus the out-of-pocket expenses, was negotiated on the basis of the number of autopsies the firm would typically be expected to perform in a year. The county is getting a discounted rate for autopsies based on the fact that Radentz firm is allowed to supplement the county's work with autopsies from other counties.

As Murray's story notes, the coroner refused to negotiate a transition agreement between Radentz' firm and his new forensic pathologist, the controversial Dr. Joye Carter. Although Radentz and his staff were supposed to work through the end of the day today, an AI source says Ackles' office actually began locking Radentz and his staff out of the office yesterday afternoon, meaning that Radentz' staff will leave behind a number of unfinished autopsies it would have otherwise been able to complete before its departure.


Anonymous said...

Somehow I think the "unforseen" costs were not making their way into Quackles' pocket. Therefore it was "DoublePlusUnGood".

Anonymous said...

So, on top of being a chiropractic coroner, which is scary enough, the man cannot negotiate a contract.

I suspect pride goeth before the fall here. Too proud to admit he can't negotiate, so he did the contract himself anyway.

Pride is a sin in every religion ever known to man. There's a reason.

In this case, it cost us a lot of money, and, potentially, due to all the confusion, more than just money: criminals getting off easily.


My law degree is dusty, and never included criminal work...but I'll bet two months' pay that I can discredit any of this coroner's office's autopsies in defense of a possible murder rap. In a criminal case, only one juror's opinion needs tainted.

Pardon the expression, but that'd be like shooting ducks in a barrel.

Murder cases in this jurdiction move quicker than some areas, but rarely does one come up less thyan 14-18 months after the alleged killer is jailed. So besides the cost of all this, we have hidden human capital costs well into the future.

Because a bone-cracker cancer-curer cannot admit he wasn't smart enough to negotiate a contract.


Anonymous said...

The IDIOT needs to consult with a "good lawyer that gives a dam" in the future instead of attempting to negotiate and draft his own contracts.

Dr. Ackles brought this all on himself by being arrogant and not accepting the advice and assistance from qualified professionals.

Anonymous said...

FYI, tell the idiot Coroner that the city controller signed off on the contract, with full disclosure of all the costs associated with PAI as the provider. If the guy controlling the purse strings has no problem with it, why does Ackles? Oh ya, Radentz et al aren't his kind. Pure and simple, racial discrimination is running out of control at MCCO and there will be more glaring examples of this soon to be seen.

Anonymous said...

9:04: no insult to lawyers, but I've negotiated all kinds of deals for a couple of decdes. Typically, lawyers aren't good negotiators. With exceptions, of course.

They're good at cleaning up the contracts, of course. No one's better at that.

But as for actual negotiations, I beleive's it's urban legend that you need to send a lawyer in. Herego the brilliant Fred Glass negotiations for Lucas Oil Stadium and related incidents.

Nice guy, great lawyer. Lousy negotiator.

But the Bayh and Peterson folks think only lawyers can do their bidding when negotiations enter the mix.

A law degree does not equate with good negotiating sense. Far from it.

Evidently a chiropractic "degree", apart form making "Dr" Ackles woozy around corpses, doesn't qualify him for negotiating skills, either. (Or is that skillz with a "z" ?)

We're all paying for these ego trips.


Anonymous said...

It's been my professional experience if you want something negotiated - you don't send in lawyers. You send in salespersons.

Ever felt like you got one over on a car salesman? You did? that's what you think.

Anonymous said...

Bones Ackles is incompetent! Let's face fact, it took him a couple months to think of that lame story, and previously had NO REASON for canceling the contract of a well-respected, University-affiliated, group of teacher/pathologists.

Bones needs to resign for the good of the county...or else we need to look at the procedures to remove him!

-By the way, I do not have a law degree, but I guarantee you I can raise enough stink over "Bones" Ackles's incompetence, and Joye Carter's lack of credentials & past adjudicated misconduct to make any jury have doubt in a case....

Anonymous said...

1) the current deiners on staff found out how much FPAI was being paid and thought that "all that money" was lining their pockets
2) the deiners talked with Ballew and Ackles and sent a letter to Carson demanding more money for the job they were doing because the doctor's (with how many years of education + student loans to pay off) were making "too much money" off the contract. FYI Carter is making more (175K) than either of the forensic pathologists from FPAI.
3)Carson and Ackles figured out how to get the deiners more money and run FPAI out...cancel the contract and make the deiners county employees.
4) The plan was poorly thought out though since two of the deiners took a 5K pay cut while two deiners got raises of 10 to 18K/year. Additionally, Carter mentioned she wanted to do less administrative work and more autopsies. Unfortunately, due to the fact that MCCO knew what was going on and didn't need a transition agreement the new MCCO employees + Carter will have to 1) figure out the status of existing/unfinished reports from 10/15, dictate and transcribe reports, and now purchase new autopsy and office equipment as the old office equipment and autopsy supplies belonged to FPAI. Sadly, due to the fact that MCCO locked out FPAI, almost twelve hours of work time was lost. Did I mention a hostile work environment? FPAI employees had no toilet paper or paper towels on Monday and were verbally harassed by MCCO employees (including one Ghost) on Tuesday. One caveat--MCCO also locked out some of their own deputy coroners and Diggers delivery service. If bodies are lying on the floor in the garage, blame MCCO for its myopia. Peterson are you listening? It is only going to get worse. Allow me to quote Drowning Pool, who said it best, "Let the bodies hit the floor..."

Anonymous said...

Pleading ignorance here, I am not familiar with the term "deiner." What does it refer to? Regardless, this whole thing looks like a fiasco of major proportions.

Anonymous said...

deiner= slave in german...autopsy assistant. Went from 20K/year to 40K/year under MCCO. Requirements: be in tight with Ballew and/or Accles, helps if you go to the same church or help plan parties (all on company time). Maximum education of an associates degree, more education and you probably won't get hired, melanin challenged and you definately won't get hired.

Gary R. Welsh said...

"Diener" is another word for a person who assists the forensic pathologists with autopsies. They are responsible for moving and cleaning the body.

Anonymous said...

"Diener" is servant in German; slave is "Sklave".

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
deiner= slave in german...autopsy assistant. Went from 20K/year to 40K/year under MCCO. Requirements: be in tight with Ballew and/or Accles, helps if you go to the same church or help plan parties (all on company time). Maximum education of an associates degree, more education and you probably won't get hired, melanin challenged and you definately won't get hired.

8:28 PM EST

Good Gawd man, you couldnt be more right if you were little miss alfie ballooo herself.

Can you hear the whistle blow? It's just a matter of time before that train jumps the track.

Let's hope that there are no mass casualities like a plane crash as the victims will only be victimized by the quislings of the coroner's office.

Not only will I wear a seat belt but probably carry to cash or fancy watch on me, just in case.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Ghost Employment himself will help you out if you have lots of money and a pretty watch...why dear JM might get off his ass and actually do something if there were an incentive, other than the free job for doing nothing he is getting. He isn't gonna get busted for taking personal affects cause he is buddies with the fucking coroner.

Anonymous said...

JM? Is that suppose to be that funeral director/embalmer/ Mike Ford who youre referring to? Yeah, that guy is a problem employee. Thankfully for him, Alfie will protect him and his job. Are we not allowed to use names here?

Anonymous said...

i can tell with certainty tha Quackles knew of all of the costs of this contract. It was signed by the mayor's office, the city controller, the office of corporation counsel, and dr.quackles. There were no hidden costs. Copies of the contract are available through the office via the sunshine law. The money was budgeted for the contract as well. Quackles just didn't know when to keep his arrogant mouth shut. None of us whites were invited to the Coroner's Office Christmas Party. That's where the real problem lies. Radentz was too light skinned.

Anonymous said...

It is time the citizens of Marion County realize that a Medical Examiner system in place of a Coroner system is the answer to alot of the problems. As it stands anyone can run and be elected Coroner. Along time forensic pathologist at the IUMC said Indiana was great place to kill people, because the local funeral director is the coroner. How many homicides go undetected because of the current system. In addition the coroner's office has never been adequately funded. The people of Indianapolis need to understand the importance of the office and what they do. A coroner's office is the first line of defense in many public health issues. But nobody like to talk about death and what they do do down there, because it is not pleasant work. The coroner's office cleans up after the party. Decomposed maggot infested bodies in August, accident victims that are dismembered. Not fun stuff. Why not give them what they need to do the job?