Make your home page

New Madison County coroner elected after months of office turmoil

New coroner elected after evening caucus

Latest: The Madison County caucus elected Adam Matson as the new county coroner. He received 78 out of 87 votes in the election.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Madison County Republicans held a caucus Monday night to choose a new coroner.

The coroner’s office has been embroiled in allegations of overspending, bills unpaid, and dozens of death certificates unsigned for months.

Three people ran for the office, including Katherine Callahan, a nurse practitioner who worked under the previous coroner, Dr. Troy Abbott.

Callahan served as chief deputy coroner under Abbot. She said the County Council refused adequate funding to operate the office, and the lack of funding was tied to politics.

“In 10 days after Dr. Abbott resigned, the County Council approved $100,000 for the coroner’s office,” Callahan said.

She said the allegations of mismanagement are misplaced, and they were just trying to do the job by the book, which she says requires proper funding. 

“It is Indiana code you must provide (the office) with the funds to do the autopsies. People don’t understand the liabilities that go into this. If we just start signing death certificates without any cause of death, there is a liability to the county, we can’t just sign death certificates just because we want to save the taxpayers’ money,” Callahan said.

According to an e-mail obtained by I-Team 8, by the time Abbott resigned in July, he had not returned hundreds of emails or paid thousands of dollars in bills.

Abbott also faced several Occupational Safety and Health Administration complaints and criticism for buying a walk-in freezer to serve the county morgue. The freezer is kept in this building just north of downtown Anderson.

Chris Burris also ran for coroner. He told I-Team 8 he started in the office as a volunteer 14 years ago, and worked his way into a full-time position. Burris is currently acting as the interim coroner.

He said there were $80,000 in unpaid bills when he took over the office, along with hundreds of unanswered emails. His concern is not the money, but the families waiting for death certificates  

“In the last four months, I have been pretty much filling the role of coroner. I’m able to do the death certificates (and) the cremation authorizations, so things moved a lot quicker, which makes the families a lot happier,” Burris said.

Adam Matson was the third person running for the office. He has worked in the office as a deputy coroner until recently. He told I-Team 8 on the phone that his life has been about service and wants to continue doing so as a coroner.  

No one in the Madison County Coroner’s Office makes more than $10 an hour. Two of the candidates, if elected, plan to ask the council for a raise.