Thursday, November 09, 2006

Coroner Responds: Blames Disgruntled Employee

The Star plays catch-up with AI's exclusive this morning reporting on Dr. Stephen Radentz' letter to Mayor Bart Peterson (D) warning of the impending "implosion and impotence of Marion County’s death investigation system for years to come". An afternoon online update reports:

The forensic pathologist who performs autopsies for the Marion County Coroner's office delivered a letter this week to city officials that his firm plans to leave the county on Dec. 19 because the coroner refuses to negotiate a new contract.

The "chain-reaction type process of permanently shutting down" the firm's operations will lead, according to lead doctor Stephen Radentz, to having no one available to perform death investigations and testify at current and future homicide trials.

The coroner, Kenneth Ackles, in June terminated a contract with Radentz' firm, Forensic Pathology Associates of Indiana, with an effective date of Dec. 19. Ackles declined to explain the reason for canceling the five-year contract just eight months after signing it, saying he could not discuss negotiations.

Ackles did, however, have this response to Radentz' letter. "We're dealing with a disgruntled employee," Ackles said Thursday. "We're gonna hire other people, and they will all be board-certified forensic pathologists." The Star added, "Ackles declined to say who he will hire or when he will announce the change, but he promised it will save money and provide better service for the citizens of Marion County."

News flash for Ackles: Radentz is not an employee of your office. And that's Ackles' biggest problem with Radentz and his staff. Both under the former contract with IUPUI's medical school and the current contract with Radentz' firm, forensic pathologists performing work for the Marion County Coroner's office do so as independent contractors. These same forensic experts have provided the same services for many surrounding counties in Central Indiana, but not anymore. As a consequence of Ackles' action, Radentz must close his firm and he and his staff are taking jobs out-of-state. Marion County and the surrounding 20 counties dependent on these services will have to look for services elsewhere, perhaps even out-of-state.

The fact that Ackles has yet to hire any replacements for Radentz and his staff is extremely troublesome. As Radentz explains in his letter, forensic pathologists are in short supply, and it often takes months to recruit just one, let alone a staff of three. Assuming he does find someone who is willing to step into the lion's den, the person will likely come from out-of-state and have to wait to become licensed in Indiana before he/she can perform any autopsies for the county.

UPDATE: The Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy has a more lengthy story in today's paper, which includes a reation from the prosecutor's office, which is obviously one of concern. O'Shaughnessy reports:

Lisa Borges, chief of staff for Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, said she is concerned that the coroner is making the transition now -- in a year with a near-record number of homicides. Borges said she has held several meetings with city officials, urging them to help end the impasse with what she called a highly qualified team of pathologists.

"It's very important that they negotiate to maintain the continuity of the investigations that are currently under way," Borges said . . .

Borges said the situation reminds her of the early 1990s, when then-Coroner Karl Manders canceled a contract with Indiana University pathologists in an attempt to save money. The team Manders hired in 1992 botched several death investigations and suffered from credibility problems, including a drunken-driving arrest.

"They simply were utter failures, so I have great concern now," Borges said.

In 1994, the coroner's office rehired the IU pathologists, who decided not to renew the contract in 2005. Radentz, one of the IU doctors, started his own firm to take over the contract.

O'Shaughnessy says the mayor is reviewing the letter according to a spokesman.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

This coroner is an ill-informed moron. The only forensic pathologists he could ever hope to recruit are the scum of the profession with questionable ethichs and problems in their professional past.

No decent forensic pathologist would ever work for a dolt like Ackles.

Anyone that does work for him is a complete loser.

Anonymous said...

ANON 1140: Easy on the loser comment. Not everyone who works there is a moronic loser. And you are giving Ackles far too much credit. He is worse than a dolt. I would carry on and say how I really feel, but they might remove my blog due to inappropriate language and use of threats.

I have it on good authority that MCCO has three prospective candidates: two forensic and one clinical pathologist.

I believe one is Dr. Joye Brown. Google her and you will find that the only positive information about her is what she wrote about herself in her autobiography. She leaves a trail of sh*t everywhere she goes. Furthermore, she has been retired in Virginia for some years now. I wonder what it took to get her to come out of retirement to come to Indianapolis?? $$$?

As for the other two, I'm not sure, but I think one is a local boy (from Martinsville, maybe) who is a pathologist and a lawyer. Put those things together and guess what you get? Someone who specializes in medical malpractice. Sorry Methodist.

On the plus side, we will have solved the jail overcrowding problems. Inadequacy from the pathologists will mean the prosecutors cases will fall apart and all homicide detective's hard work will have been useless. No one will get convicted. Expect our murder rate to climb every year.

Happy Trails...