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Legislators question medical examiner plans

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Legislators question medical examiner plans
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Oneida County is set to replace their elected coroners with appointed medical examiners at the end of the year. The county legislature approved the measure months ago, but as our Andrew Sorensen tells us, a few legislators are concerned what they're getting isn't exactly what they pictured.

ONEIDA COUNTY, N.Y. -- Oneida County's four elected coroners are set to be replaced at the end of the year by Assistant Medical Examiners under Onondaga County's Medical Examiner's Office. That has some Oneida County legislators concerned because they say that's not exactly what they voted for.

“It morphed from what was promulgated to us as an Oneida County program to an Onondaga County program,” said Oneida County Legislator Chad Davis.

Three legislators, including Davis, are trying to stall the transition because they're worried about increased costs in logistics like transportation of bodies to Syracuse.

Davis said, “Which changes the nature of the beast.”

They also have concerns as to how the program was legally put in place.

“The board said 'OK let's go forward with this program,' but we believe it should have been advertised as a permissive referendum, but it was not,” Davis said.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente says it doesn't need a referendum because the move is allowed by the charter, which he claims is itself a referendum.

Picente said, “Article 19 states that, 'The board of county legislators shall have the power by local law to abolish the office of coroner and create the office of appointed medical examiner.'”

The county executive says he does plan to keep going forward with the new system and he calls all of their numerous claims just sad politics.

“It's really sad that county legislators who are elected and charged with carrying out the laws of this county don't understand the main law of this county and that's the charter of this county,” Picente said.

He says their concerns about costs are baseless as the program costs the same and increases accountability, a major problem in the past.

“All I can say is that they've been, that it's politics,” Picente said. “I don't understand any other reason for it.”

Davis says he's not necessarily against the examiner idea, but he does want an extra year for the board to mull the numbers over.

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