County weighing coroner setup

JOHNSTOWN – Fulton County Coroner Margaret Luck will meet with county supervisors next month to help legislators decide what to do about the fact she’s now the county’s only coroner.

The Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee on Monday at the County Office Building reviewed the vacated post of former County Coroner Art Simmons. He resigned at the end of the year. He and Luck have served the last several years as Fulton County’s two elected coroners.

“The discussions need to start as far as options for the county coroner’s position,” county Administrative Officer Jon Stead said.

Simmons in November wrote Stead indicating he was resigning, mainly because he was elected to a Republican councilman position in the town of Northampton. He resigned after 16 years, in part because he cannot under state law hold two elected positions at the same time. He also stated there were “several reasons” why he was relinquishing the position, but did not provide details.

Stead told the committee that under the current structure, the coroner vacancy may be filled by the Board of Supervisors for the balance of 2014. He said a special election will be conducted in November to elect the coroner for a new, full four-year term.

He also said county law gives the board the authority to change the number of elected coroners to not less than one, but not more than four.

Stead said it’s possible the county could reduce the county’s two-coroner set-up to one coroner and establish a system of “backup relief” with contiguous counties for death calls.

“Coverage is one of the main issues,” Stead said.

Sheriff Thomas Lorey told the committee going to one county coroner would be a “serious mistake.” He said he’s seen periods where two coroners on duty weren’t adequate to cover the county.

It was noted that coroners are paid on an as-needed, fee basis.

Johnstown 4th Ward Supervisor William Waldron, committee chairman, formally requested Luck address his panel at its next meeting on Feb. 24.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at