By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — A flap over deputy coroner salaries developed during Thursday's meeting of the county's Fiscal Committee.
Coroner Eddie Joe Marks, for the second time in the past 30 days, requested the line item for salaries of deputy coroners be reinstated. The line item, during the county's budget, was eliminated.
Marks explained he wanted the salaries reinstated so he could take some time off.
That drew criticism from Board Chair Robert White who asked Marks when he campaigned, did he not promise to be a 24/7 coroner. Marks replied that he has done that for the past five years, however, he needs a day off.
"When you look at the overall budget it hasn't changed. The line items that he thought existed aren't the way he thought they existed," White said, following a question from Board member Jim Laird.
"They were zeroed out and I had to absorb those through the cremation money. I was building that up to get approval from the board to buy a van for the office," Marks said. He requested $4,200 for deputy coroner salaries this fiscal year, but added, "I realize we're six months into the year. I don't expect $4,200 to be put back in, but if I got half that amount I would be tickled pink." Marks has received a $3,600 line item for deputy coroner salaries the past three years.
The cremation fund goes into a separate account and can't be used for wages, according to Marks. The coroner's office receives $50 for every cremation performed in the county. Marks said he uses that money for office supplies.
"You shouldn't be the one to run the budget or have Suzy (Tate) cut the budgets because they were not included in the budgets," Marks said to White.
"Are you leveling an accusation at me that I run this budget or I run this budget without input from a committee?" White asked. "If we're gong to talk about accusations, let's talk about not ordering autopsies at a crime scene because you're upset that they're not including you. Do you want to level accusations? Is that what you want?"
Marks replied that he would like the deputy coroner's salaries reinstated.
"My budget has been totally wiped out," Marks said.
"And when was that?" White asked.
"When the budget came out," Marks replied. "It was okay in December. I found out about it on Feb. 1," he added, although he did not disclose the source from which that information was obtained.
Marks also said he thinks it a "shame" the county has to depend on revenue from the incarceration of ICE prisoners.
"The reason the ICE budget helps run this county and helps fund this is so we don't have to continue raising property or sales taxes to pay for the services required by the taxpayers of the county," White said. "You've got a choice: you can either do it yourself within the confines of what you have or you go and ask taxpayers to shoulder more of the burden. It sounds like you're advocating raising taxes."
The Committee took no action on Marks' request, although it is on the agenda for Monday's full board meeting. The Committee will also recommend to the full board to keep the 2012-2013 budget open for 60 days.
During the Land, Tax and Appointments Committee meeting Greg Sims was appointed to the Jefferson County Housing Authority and Dr. David Asbery was appointed to the Mt. Vernon Airport Authority.