Evan J. pretzer/lakeland times
Oneida County supervisors Dave Hintz and Bob Mott discuss electronic voting and adding a new position to the medical examiner’s office at Thursday’s Oneida County budget meeting.
Legal issues for medical examiner
Before Larry Mathien assumed the role, the last medical examiner in Oneida County got into trouble for claiming unauthorized tissue and spinal samples for her own personal use. Traci England claimed she wanted to use the material to train one of her dogs to detect cadavers. She was dismissed in 2011.
10/17/2017 7:30:00 AM Building the Oneida County budget Administration committee holds preliminary hearings
By Evan J. Pretzer of the lakeland times
In meetings on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week, the Oneida County Administration Committee went through the 2018 budget and deliberated on what to remove and what to approve and send onward to the county board in November.
According to supervisor Billy Fried, the first two days of hearings were mostly quiet.
In a phone conversation with The Lakeland Times, he noted the various county departments have done a great job of not causing increases in non-personnel expenditures, and, as much of the personnel costs are tied to contractually obligated raises, there wasn't anything of note for the committee to discuss extensively. "Nothing was contentious, the room was empty and the birds were chirping," Fried joked.
Though most items on the list did fly by during meetings one and two, one bit which didn't make it past the committee was a proposed electronic voting upgrade for the board.
As reported previously, Oneida County officials have been deliberating on issuing iPads to the county board to allow them to cast their votes digitally and save on paper costs since at least 2015.
Last month, the Oneida County Capital Improvement Program Subcommittee debated sending the idea onward to the county board for approval alongside a package of other technological upgrades, but this did not occur.
Thanks to opposition from supervisor Jack Sorensen and the piece being dubbed unnecessary by the county's system for grading projects, it was stricken from the group of other items under consideration. Instead, Fried and Oneida County clerk Tracy Hartman were given the task of coming up with a modified and separate plan for the $35,000 idea.
This did happen, but administration committee chairman Dave Hintz remained opposed when it was brought up again during the budget meetings.
"He (Hintz) didn't like the title, he wanted it to be investigated and brought forward at a time where the costs, savings and training could be properly identified." Fried said. "It ended up being left open for consideration next year or later on, but everyone on administration thinks more info is needed."
In the final meeting on Oct. 12, Oneida County medical examiner and sheriff candidate Larry Mathein came to make his case for a new staff member in his department. Mathein began this journey with the public safety committee in August.
Since he departed from the role of chief deputy medical examiner in 2009, due to issues with the previous county medical examiner Traci England, before taking over her position in 2011 after she faced criminal charges for taking human tissue during an autopsy for cadaver dog training, Mathein's department has been without a primary assistant leaving him to handle various duties outside his normal areas of operation.
"As we've progressed over the years, the workload and responsibilities of my office have increased exponentially," Mathein said. "It's at a point where I can no longer do everything which needs to be done. I do all the bookkeeping and data management by myself."
Speaking to the committee, he asked members to forward the hiring of a new chief deputy medical examiner examiner to the county leadership for approval in November.
In his view, the other reason a part-time assistant is needed is due to declining interest in volunteering for positions within the department and the overall county.
"What's happening is, the voluntee- type staff we're relying on to fill out those extra and off-work times aren't as easy to get as they used to be," he said. "Then, when they don't show up, I end up working 60 or more hours in a week."
Like the public safety committee did in August, the administration committee also inquired about the cost impact. Supervisor Bob Mott inquired about whether Mathein was confident costs related to the slot would be covered by Vilas County (Oneida County is due to take up a contract with Vilas for medical examiner-related work).
Mathein assured him and the other group members finances would be managed properly and there would be no issue in 2019 as he would have enough budgeted to cover the job. This was then corrected by Oneida County Finance Department head Darcy Smith.
"The part-time position would be covering three counties (Oneida,Vilas and Forest), so Vilas would not be covering 100 percent of the costs," Smith said.
Ultimately, the Oneida County Administration Committee voted to send Mathein's proposal to the county board for final approval.
"I'm optimistic the county board will approve it," he said.
"What I am doing now, I am getting grayer by the day. It's a good thing I don't go out drinking, because it would wreck a lot."
Evan J. Pretzer may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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