Moffat County coroner candidates discuss candidacies, plans
October 11, 2018
CRAIG — Moffat County voters will select their next coroner Nov. 6 in the only locally contested race between Democratic candidate Alec Brown and Republican Jesse Arthurs, who defeated incumbent Coroner Kirk McKey in June's primary.
The Craig Press recently asked Arthurs and Brown a series of questions about their candidacies and plans for the coroner’s office if elected.
Craig Press: How long have you lived and worked in Moffat County?
Jesse Arthurs: Overall, I have lived and worked in Craig for 13 years. I was born in Rangely and spent every single summer in Craig until moving to Craig my sophomore year in high school. After graduating from MCHS in 2001, I attended CNCC. Following my graduation from Arapahoe Community College's Mortuary Science program in 2004, I went to work for Grant Mortuary. I later accepted a funeral directors position in Delta in 2005. I returned to Craig in August 2014, accepting the general manager's position at Grant Mortuary.
Alec Brown: 39 years, I moved here in July 1979.
CP: Why do you want to be Moffat County's next coroner?
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Arthurs: I have had an interest in becoming a coroner since I entered the funeral industry 15 years ago. I believe this office deserves a candidate who has experience working with families during a difficult time in their lives. If elected coroner, I will be able to transition to this position easier than my opponent because of the years of experience I have working in a coroner's office and my ability to help families through the loss of a loved one.
Brown: I have had the privilege of serving Moffat County for most of the time I have lived here. Serving as coroner is another way of serving the county.
CP: Among the most important jobs of the coroner is to determine how and why a person died. What qualifications do you have that will help you make such determinations?
Arthurs: When I moved to Delta in 2005, I accepted a position with the Delta County Coroner's Office. I retained that position for nine years under the supervision of two different county coroners. When I moved back to Craig in 2014, I was appointed deputy coroner for Kirk McKey, the position I currently hold. Throughout my career as a deputy coroner, I was responsible for investigating the cause and manner of death, of natural and unnatural deaths, including suicides, homicides, accidents, and unattended deaths. I have obtained several of the skills needed to accurately determine the cause of death by attending several coroner conferences, and I have observed several autopsies. Among my qualifications are forensic photography, understanding how to process a death scene, and how to properly collect evidence.
Brown: Each death should be considered a crime scene from the beginning. It should be treated as such. Most times, it is found not to be a crime rather quickly. If it is found to be a crime, the coroner must investigate closely with local law enforcement. I have taken several classes through the sheriff’s office in crime scene and death investigations.
CP: How are you going to choose your assistant coroner?
Arthurs: I will be retaining the current chief deputy coroner, Rebecca Warren. Ms. Warren has held this position under the supervision of Kirk McKey and Owen Grant. I believe she is well qualified and most deserving of the assistant coroner position.
Brown: Right now, the county is served by very good assistant coroners. I plan to use their knowledge and ability as it is now. I have also be approached by a person in Dinosaur stating he would like to be an assistant to help cover the west end of the county. This man has the training and experience to fulfill a position as assistant coroner.
CP: What special skills or experience do you bring to the job?
Arthurs: Throughout my career as a funeral director, I have helped thousands of families during the loss of a loved one. As an experienced deputy coroner, I have investigated hundreds of deaths, therefore I will not require on-the-job training. My duties consisted of forensic photography, processing the death scene, collecting evidence, writing precise reports for the county coroner, and constant communication with families, local law enforcement, victim advocates, physicians, and forensic pathologists. In addition, I was responsible for delivering death notifications to next of kin, helping families contact a funeral home, returning the decedent’s personal belongings to his/her family, and distributing autopsy reports to their families. With my experience, I believe I am well-qualified for this position.
Brown: I have been trained in crime scene and death investigations by Law Enforcement Training Network and Public Agency Training Council. I have what I believe is an outstanding working relationship with local law enforcement.
CP: If elected, do you intend to continue to work another full-time job, and if so, how will you manage the duties of being Moffat County Coroner?
Arthurs: If elected coroner, I will retain my position as general manager at Grant Mortuary. With my chosen career, I believe I will be able to manage the duties of the county coroner easily. I will be responding to the majority of the calls, and when I am not able, I will be working closely with the assistant coroner in my absence.
Brown: No! I will retire from the sheriff’s office and be a full-time coroner. Part of what I have been campaigning on is being a full-time coroner.
CP: What do you know about Colorado’s Open Records Act and Criminal Justice Records Act, and will your office abide by the provisions of those acts in your dealings with the press and the public?
Arthurs: I am aware that autopsy reports are open records and that anyone is entitled to them. If elected coroner, my office will work closely with the press and the public with the utmost professionalism and will abide by these provisions.
Brown: Title 24 Article 72 of Colorado Revised Statues, explains what must be released to the press and the public. It further explains what does not need to be released. Anything that can be released to the press, I have no problem giving out, following the C.R.S.
CP: The county budget is tight. If elected, what specific steps will you take to keep the coroner’s budget flat.
Arthurs: After reviewing the coroner's budget from previous years, I believe I will be able to manage the budget more effectively. Currently, the county hires the funeral home to transport autopsies to Grand Junction. If elected coroner, I plan to utilize the county vehicle for transports, which will decrease the coroner's budget. I will also use my past experience as a deputy coroner to determine whether or not an autopsy should be ordered.
Brown: I believe in being as frugal as possible. I once learned it is not your money; it belongs to the taxpayers of Moffat County. Your job is to safeguard the funds for the office. When you get a dollar, only spend 90 cents, and return the 10 cents to the taxpayers.
CP: If elected, what three things would you do during the first year of your term to ensure Moffat County receives the best service from its coroner?
Arthurs: If elected, I will continue to conduct more thorough investigations by being the voice of the deceased, to dictate the correct cause and manner of death. Secondly, I will continue to provide compassion, dignity, and respect to the families of Moffat County. Finally, I will continue to lead the office with the professionalism the community deserves.
Brown: Training is essential. A newly elected coroner is required by statute to take a 40-hour class as soon as possible and continue with at least 20 hours of training each year thereafter. Since I will not have a full-time job other than coroner, I will have time to fulfill what is required, but also add more training at my expense.
CP followup question for Brown: Colorado has a civilian coroner system to ensure that the office is autonomous from law enforcement and medical providers Given your extensive background as a law enforcement officer, if elected, how would you ensure that your office remains free from bias and influence?
Brown: Retire from the sheriff’s office. According to state statute, there is no qualification to be coroner, however it is recommended they have a background in medical or law enforcement.
CP followup questions for Arthurs: How would you address any conflicts of interest that might arise between your positions of coroner and general manager of the only mortuary service in Craig?
Arthurs: It is my feeling there is no conflict of interest between a future position as coroner and my current position as general manager, because Grant Mortuary is the only mortuary in the county. However, to keep transparency between the two offices, I plan on requiring families to indicate which funeral home they would like to handle funeral arrangements, whether it be Grant Mortuary, Yampa Valley Funeral Home, or a funeral home outside our area. I would like to acknowledge that I do feel there would be a conflict of interest if there were more than one funeral home in Craig.
CP: What else would you like readers to know about your candidacy?
Arthurs: I would like to take this opportunity to thank my family, friends and the community for the love and support. I respectfully ask for your vote this election.
Brown: I have served Moffat County for about 35 years. I started with what was then known as Sheriff’s Posse, later becoming a member of Search and Rescue. I worked 24 years as an unpaid, part-time reserve with the sheriff’s office. I have spent the past 14 years working at the sheriff’s office as a full-time road patrol deputy. It has been my privilege to work and serve Moffat County. It is a great place to live and raise a family. I have a desire to continue serving Moffat County. As I have grown older, I realize the job I love, that of deputy, is becoming harder. It’s a job for younger people. I want nothing more than to continue serving a place and people that I love.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.