Quorum Court Declares Vacancy in the Office of Coroner

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The Scott County Quorum Court met in special session on Monday evening, April 22. The lone item of business was to pass a resolution, which would declare a vacancy in the office of the coroner.

Resolution 2019-1 was introduced by JP John Luttrell. That resolution passed in a 6-3 vote. The resolution was required to declare a vacancy in the office of the county coroner following former coroner Sam Callahan’s resignation last week. –See related story.

JP Scott Thompson asked Scott County Judge James Forbes if Callahan could speak prior to the vote. Forbes responded, “I’m sorry no discussion during a resolution. After we get done with this, you can discuss it any time you want.”

Following the passage of the resolution, Callahan addressed the court. “I was asked to be here. I am not here to gripe, complain or accuse…but if a JP puts his or her name on that death certificate…you better dogonne well know what your doing…what’s going on here is not a game…”

JP Tommy Roberson then asked Callahan to consider withdrawing his letter of resignation. Callahan responded, “that’s already done, that’s already over. And, even if it hadn’t been over, when I found out what I found out today, there’s no way in God’s green Earth that I would step back and even be temporary coroner or withdraw my letter because I’m telling you yall’s liability has gone through the roof.”

Luttrell responded to Callahan by saying, “I did not sign anything as coroner…none of us here volunteered for this, but we’re gonna wade through this however we’ve gotta wade through it, and that’s gonna be with help from the judge or whoever else he can round up to help us through this until we can get your position filled…it would have been so much easier if you had said I’ve had it, I’m gonna resign and gave us two weeks to find someone to appoint. Maybe we could have worked through this a little bit smoother.”

Callahan responded “I told the judge last June that there was a state investigator in my funeral home throwing the “f” bomb and that there would never be another body brought to that funeral home…but we’ve gone since June and the problem hasn’t been resolved. So, what’s two weeks gonna do?”

Luttrell said “none of us are happy about having to fill your shoes.” Callahan summed to the court, “either you have a coroner or you do not. There is no such thing as an acting coroner.”

Kevin Cleghorn, President of the Arkansas Coroner’s Association agrees. “I’ve been in touch with the legal council of the Association of Arkansas Counties. The only person that can legally sign a death certificate is a physician, hospice RN, deputy coroner or coroner. That’s Arkansas law. For a JP to sign a death certificate, it is extremely unethical.”

Cleghorn went on to add that according to Amendment 55, what should have happened the night Callahan submitted his resignation, was that an immediate appointment should have been made.

On Tuesday, April 23, Judge Forbes said he had been in contact with the Director of the State Crime Lab and that he would be meeting with the coroners in the surrounding counties. According to Forbes there is a mutual aid agreement in place.

The members of the quorum court are set to make an appoint at 3 p.m. on Friday, April 26. Whoever accepts that appointment will not be eligible to run for the office of coroner at the next election.

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Tammy Teague

Tammy Teague

Mansfield native, with roots in Scott County. Daughter, sister, wife and Christian. Education: 1995 MHS graduate; 1999 Arkansas Tech University Graduate - BA in Journalism. Career: Managing Editor - The Citizen; Copy Writer - Southwest Times Record; 20+ years experience in the news.

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