Bad smells, body bag shortage, and other issues revealed in coroner’s office audit

I-Team 8

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An audit has revealed various issues with the Marion County Coroner’s Office.

The coroner’s office is responsible for investigating homicides, suicides, accidents, violent deaths, and any suspicious or unnatural death. Law enforcement depends on their work to solve crimes.

The audit says employees were billing the coroner’s office for mileage for driving their own cars, when they should have taken a work car. Those with a take-home car did not have that perk factored into benefits to report to the Internal Revenue Service. The coroner’s office was also not getting proof their employees had valid driver’s licenses or auto insurance.

The audit revealed four pieces of property missing – in addition to 17 more missing items from a 2014 audit.

Three deputy coroners did not meet continuing education requirements – two of them missing requirements from 2015.

There were several issues with employee reimbursement. Three employees with county phones also got a cell phone reimbursement. And an employee purchased and was reimbursed almost $2,000 for body bags purchased with a personal check when the coroner’s office ran out. They did not have enough allocated funds available to buy the body bags, the vendor would not sell them on credit, and the office did not have a county P-Card.

The audit says the coroner’s office broke the law when it came to property of the deceased. They are required to turn it over to the sheriff or treasurer, but were not doing that.

Coroner Dr. Leeandrea Sloan gave I-Team 8 the following statement:

“I requested an audit in March 2018. As a new elected official, I wanted to improve operations, and understand enterprise policies and procedures. Unfortunately, an audit was not conducted until one was requested by the Controllers’ office.

Audit findings are really about improvement-not judgment. A finding isn’t a report card that details your organization’s demerits and it’s not a statement that says your agency is failing at its job. As mentioned, by Hope Tribble, the purpose of the audit was not to allege any wrongdoing, but to identify areas where fraud could occur if left unchecked.
Findings are, in fact, essential byproducts of the audit process. They reveal helpful information you can use to protect your organization from risk, tighten controls, and improve policies and procedures.

This audit, in fact, brought my attention to some things that I wasn’t aware of. While our office’s priority has been daily death investigations, the audit reveals a tremendous need for help on the administrative side of the agency as well. We requested an increase in staffing during our last audit in 2015, specifically for this purpose.
Many of the items have been addressed already, and I look forward to implementing corrective plans on the others. I want to serve the citizens of Marion County, despite being stretched thin during a time when we have a record number of homicides and death investigations in Marion County.”

Dr. Leeandrea Sloan, Marion County Coroner

Thursday night, the Public Safety and Criminal Committee heard from the Office of Audit & Performance (OAP) on its findings in the audit.

During the meeting, Councillor Joe Simpson reiterated numerous times that someone needs to be hired onto the staff of the coroner’s office to keep a check and balance of things to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“The deputy coroner for years, has been complaining about this. we have been talking about this for years,” said Simpson. “We’re going to have to spend some money. If we want this system to stay. We have got to make sure it’s worth it and somebody is keeping it up.”

Coroner Sloan was at the meeting, but did not speak on the issue. However, News 8 caught up with her afterwards.

“What this audit really showed me is with the increasing number and the rising number of homicides and homicide investigations and other death investigations, that’s our priority so we are stretched so thin, that I did not even realize how much we need help on the administrative side. Unfortunately, we need more funding. We need more boots on the ground to accomplish our mission in the coroner’s office,” said Sloan.

The OAP and Coroner Sloan are working together to come up with best practices to put in place as well as look at additional staffing.

Coroner Sloan is expected to address the council members, but she told News 8 she didn’t know when that would be.

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