Rock County coroner: Pathologist’s attack inappropriate

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Ted Sullivan
Saturday, April 10, 2010
— Rock County Coroner Jenifer Keach responded to criticism Friday from a UW-Madison forensic pathologist, calling his personal attack “grossly inappropriate” and asking for an apology.

“I don’t want to work with people that don’t behave in a respectful manner and don’t want to behave in a professional manner,” Keach said.

UW-Madison forensic pathologist Michael Stier wrote Rock County Board members Thursday, saying he has had problems working with Keach on death investigations. He said he has heard complaints from law enforcement about Keach’s uncooperative attitude.

Stier urged the board to switch from an elected coroner to an appointed medical examiner when it met Thursday. Board members voted 16-12 to delay their decision until a future date.

“I do not agree with Dr. Stier’s characterization of our working relationship,” Keach said. “Dr. Stier was aware of the recent discussions regarding a medical examiner office in Rock County and had in fact offered his full support of the coroner’s office on this issue in the past.”

In his letter, Stier said he was asked to do autopsies this week after deaths in Rock County. He said Keach demanded the autopsies be done at a non-university facility.

Stier said Keach had no authority to make that decision. He said the alternate morgue was more expensive and inferior. He called Keach’s decision selfish.

Keach said the disagreement between her and Stier was about the location of the autopsies.

Keach said Stier wanted the autopsies done at the VA hospital in Madison. She said she wanted them done at the Dane County Coroner’s Office.

Keach said Stier and other UW-Madison pathologists are contracted to do Rock County autopsies, and they do them at both locations. She said she has autopsies done both places to share business and create flexibility.

Keach said Stier is upset with the Dane County Coroner’s Office because it plans to hire its own forensic pathologist. Keach said the hiring could cut into Stier’s business. She said he also fears he could lose Rock County’s business to the new Dane County pathologist.

Rock County is stuck in the middle, Keach said, and she is trying to be fair with everyone.

She said she has had previous disagreements with Stier, but they always were about the location of autopsies.

After this week’s dispute, a different pathologist did the autopsies, Keach said. She is still working with Stier’s boss to resolve the problem and get an apology.

“Dr. Stier issued an ultimatum that the Rock County Coroner’s Office conform to his preferences or he would not perform the autopsies,” Keach said.

She said she has the authority to decide who does her autopsies and where they are done because they are Rock County cases.

Keach said Stier’s criticisms came out of nowhere.

“Dr. Stier has, up until this point, been complimentary of the Rock County Coroner’s office and myself,” Keach said.

Stier could not be reached for comment.

Keach has been at the center of controversy in recent months.

The board considered switching to a medical examiner’s office after complaints were filed against Keach, alleging sexual discrimination, a hostile work environment and inappropriate behavior.

Keach said disgruntled former employees are targeting her. She said their allegations are false and politically motivated.

Last updated: 1:38 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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