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Walworth County decides on medical examiner

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Catherine W. Idzerda
March 12, 2014

ELKHORN—In December, longtime Walworth County Coroner John Griebel died.

Tuesday, the Walworth County Board voted unanimously to change its ordinances, abolishing the office and replacing it with a medical examiner.

In doing so, officials paid tribute to Griebel's service.

“We've almost been spoiled by the high quality of his work,” board member Dave Wagner said in an executive committee meeting just before the full board meeting.

Walworth County David Bretl echoed those sentiments.

“In addition to missing our friend, to say that those will be big shoes to fill is an understatement,” he told the board.

Griebel's wife, Barb, attended the meeting, and Bretl recognized her “profound loss” as he honored her husband for his 53 years of service.  Griebel was first elected in 1960.

Bretl told the board there were “a lot of unknowns, but whatever we do is going to cost more than it did before.”

“John ran it from his house,” Bretl said of the coroner's office. “He was on the road all the time.”

After the meting Bretl said Griebel was being paid for a half-time job—an estimated $44,000 a year—and was working more hours than he was being paid for.

Tuesday's vote was the result of several discussions in committee.

Bretl explained the differences between a medical examiner and a coroner to the board.

A medical examiner will be appointed by, and will answer to, the county board. The board also can decide what qualifications the medical examiner should have.

A coroner is an elected official who answers only to voters.

Tuesday's vote came just hours after Gov. Scott Walker's office informed county officials it had chosen someone to fill the remainder of Griebel's term. Ron Person, a retired captain from the Walworth County Sheriff's Department will fill in for Griebel until Jan. 4, 2015.

Although the new medical examiner will not officially start until that term expires, the board needed to make a decision, Bretl said. State law requires that counties wanting to switch to the medical examiner system must change their ordinances before April 15. That's the first day candidates would be allowed to circulate papers for the office of coroner.

Bretl said the county hasn't decided on all of the details of the medical examiner job description or pay. Waukesha County is considering forming a consortium with other counties for services related to a medical examiner's office. Those plans are still under discussion.

Rock County also will change to a medical examiner system in 2015.   



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