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Committee to discuss referendum to eliminate McHenry County Coroner as an elected office

McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim (back) listens as McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks addresses issues with the coroner's office Oct. 2 at the McHenry County Administrative Building in Woodstock.
McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim (back) listens as McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks addresses issues with the coroner's office Oct. 2 at the McHenry County Administrative Building in Woodstock.

An ad hoc committee is scheduled to meet Dec. 6 to discuss the possibility of placing a binding referendum question on the ballot asking voters whether the McHenry County Coroner’s Office should be eliminated as an elected office.

The idea of a binding referendum was raised during an ad hoc committee meeting in October.

Because state law offers few requirements for candidates wishing to run for coroner – and could allow an 18-year-old registered voter living in McHenry County with no medical experience to be elected – several County Board members felt it should be up to the voters on whether the position should remain an elected post.

This year, two evaluations of the coroner’s office were conducted: one performed by the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office – which is overseeing the office in an interim capacity – to determine security problems, and one from Dr. Dennis Kellar to determine medical and operational shortcomings.

The reports identified limited communications, deficient security measures and poor evidence maintenance, lack of quality assurance of fluid and tissue evidence, and failure to meet minimum standards of education for deputy coroners, among other problems.

The sheriff’s office’s report concluded that the citizens of McHenry County should be the final arbiters of the overall structure of the coroner’s office, either by passage of a referendum or by the election of a new coroner.

The proposed referendum, if approved, could see the office eliminated by Nov. 30, meaning those running for the office this election year might not have an office to oversee by the time they’re sworn in.

As of Wednesday, two people had filed nomination paperwork to run for coroner as Republicans: former McHenry County Board member Michael Rein and Angela Byrnes of Crystal Lake.

Byrnes said that regardless of the passage of the referendum, she still would seek the position.

“For me, it’s about doing what I feel is right for the community,” Byrnes said. “I do think I’m the right person, and whether I get there by election or referendum, I would still pursue it.”

The ad hoc committee meeting will be at 10 a.m. at the McHenry County Administration building, 667 Ware Road, Woodstock.

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