Letter to the Editor from Prowers County Coroner Tommy Dunagan

Description: The Following is a Letter to the Editor that was Written and Submitted by Prowers County Coroner Tommy Dunagan on June 5, 2024. (The opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are not those of SECO News or Consulting With A Hart LLC)

Published: 06/05/2024
Byline: SECO News

Letter to the Editor from Prowers County Coroner Tommy Dunagan

I would like the opportunity to address several inaccuracies and misrepresentations that were made at the county commission meeting I participated in yesterday on 6/4 and contained in the video of the commission meeting that was posted online.

I was completely dismayed and shocked that the Commissioners invited several uninterested parties and my political rivals to the meeting and provided them information on an active death investigation. It wrong and improper to do so and was disrespectful to the decedent and their family, especially while they were trying to cope with the unexpected death of a loved one. Because it was an active investigation, I was restricted in what I could and could not say and was not able to challenge their misrepresentation until now.

This is not the first time my political opponent has been asked to attend a commission meeting by commissioners nor do I expect it to be the last.

Contrary to what the commissioners and their surrogates promulgated in the meeting, there was NO delay in my response to the scene and decedent was NOT left laying in a field because I refused to respond. The average time for our office to respond is anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on time of day and location in response to where I am at the time the call comes in. I was on scene, 40 miles South of my location at the time of the call, in just over an hour. The decedent was a friend of mine and to suggest that I neglected my duties in absurd and disgusting. There was a delay after I arrived because it took a significant amount of time for the funeral home to respond. The funeral home is notified by me once I arrive on scene and assess the situation. This case did not tie up EMS, law enforcement or anyone else and for the commissioners and their surrogates to make that allegation was wrong, misleading and dishonest.

In an effort to speed up response times, removal times and to benefit the citizens of the county and families of descendants I was able to secure a free transport van for the Coroner’s Office from a neighboring county. When our commissioners were told of the donated Van, they refused to accept it and did not provide a reason for not wanting it nor were they willing to purchase a transport van.

During my tenure as Chief Coroner the county commissioners have worked to restrict the services provided by this office to the citizens of Prowers County and drive me from this elected post in very personal ways.

This county has approximately 100 deaths a year. The average death investigation is approximately 15 hours. The Chief Coroner is on call 24/7, 365 and is expected to respond to all deaths. This does not include the management of the office, training, organizing and scheduling of Deputy Coroners and other duties and responsibilities of the office. Since taking my post I have averaged 50 hours per week.

State of Colorado statutory authorized the Prowers County Coroner and other similar counties of this size a full-time position but left the discretion up to the County Commissioners Colorado Statute CRS 30-2-102. This statute clearly states the Commissioners can change the status of part time to full time.

I have been paid part time by the County Commissioners since I took my post as Coroner despite working full time and handling over 100 deaths a year and professionalizing and repairing the office after my predecessor left it in shambles.

I have repeatedly brought this inequity to the Commissioner’s attention privately, in previous meetings, in writing and through conversations all to no avail. I have based my arguments for full-time pay for full-time work on facts, workload, time and attendance and their legal ability to do so under Colorado Law.

The commissioners have not even entertained the idea and consistently rely on their interpretation of false budget policies.

To contrast what is going on and in true transparency the commissioners by statute only have to work 2 days a month, (24 days a year or 192 hours) and collect full time wages, compared to the Coroner’s Office by statute has to provide coverage 24-7. (nearly 9,000 hours a year) for which they pay part time wages.

I am a long time residence of the county and serve the county in multiple capacities while one of our County Commissioners, Wendy Buxton-Andrade does not live in this county yet she feels she is entitled to and receives full time pay and has been taking a salary while mostly being on zoom meetings.

I called the media to this meeting for transparency and because I believe the citizens of the county deserve better from their elected officials. There is never any public input or attendance at commissioner meetings except when they call their surrogates to help them with their chicanery. This needs to change.

I want to be the best Coroner in the State of Colorado and I think the citizens of Prowers County deserve that from all their elected officials, not for the County Commissioners who did not like the outcome of an election to subvert the will of the people.

I also believe that full-time work deserves full-time pay.

I welcome any and all questions and respectful discussions.

Tommy Dunagan, Prowers County Coroner

Related Content:

Prowers Coroner Wants Full-time Pay and Attorney Fees After Leaving a Body Cause He Was Out of Hours

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