DELHI — A proposal billed as a cost-saving measure to replace the current Delaware County medical examiner’s office with a coroner system was pronounced dead on arrival Friday when proponents fell just short of capturing enough support from fellow town supervisors.
The vote by the Board of Supervisors at a special meeting was an example of how a majority does not always prevail in a democracy. Under parliamentary rules, the resolution before the board required 3,200 weighted votes— about two-thirds of the total number of votes assigned to board members — in order to pass.
But the fact that the backers of the idea drew a clear majority of support raised questions about whether the influence of the county board’s chairman — Harpersfield Town Supervisor James Eisel, a staunch advocate for sticking with the current medical examiner scheme — is waning in county governance.
Eisel, who according to colleagues did not attend the meeting because he was tending to his very ill mother, has signaled that he wants to keep the current medical examiner, Dr. Richard Ucci, in place. Four other town supervisors were also absent from the meeting: Martin Donnelly of Andes, Sam Rowe Jr. of Hancock, Steven Bower of Kortright and Mike Spaccaforno of Masonville.
The other 13 supervisors voted for the resolution, which would have called upon state lawmakers to give the county home-rule authority to make the change. Had Albany done that, the county board would have still had to have another vote to abolish the medical examiner office and create the new coroner system.
Miller said Delaware County has the most expensive system in the state for dealing with unattended deaths. He collects $450 for every report of an unattended death, she said, noting there are 145 such cases each year. On top of that, she said, the medical examiner receives as stipend of $450 per month. If an autopsy is required, she said, that work has to be farmed out to a forensic pathologist because Ucci is not a forensic pathologist.