News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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March 13, 2013

Vigo County Council denies coroner’s salary appeal

Amos seeking to have salary brought up to level of comparable counties, other Vigo office holders

TERRE HAUTE — An appeal from Vigo County Coroner Susan Amos to increase her salary to match that of several other county office holders was unanimously denied Tuesday by the Vigo County Council.

Amos sought to have her salary raised to $47,858 from $31,905. The higher salary would have matched that of the county assessor, auditor, clerk, recorder, surveyor and treasurer. Under state law, in a year in which a newly elected official takes office, that official can ask the County Council for a change in salary. The change must be approved by the council.

A council committee last month stated the County Council looked at salaries of coroners in other similar-sized counties, based on figures from the Association of Indiana Counties, to reach a base coroner salary of $21,270 for Vigo County this year. By state law, a physician who is elected coroner must be paid one and a half times that base amount, which is the $31,905 the council set for the coroner’s salary.

Amos told the council Tuesday that the average salary of coroners in the state is $41,875, according to the Indiana Coroners Association. “There is only one other physician coroner in the state and that is actually a dentist in Allen County and he is making $68,727,” Amos told the council.

Amos said a nonphysican coroner in Vanderburgh County, which is larger than Vigo County, is making $64,664.

“I feel like [former county coroner] Dr. [Roland] Kohr was paid a straight salary, there was no mention in his salary that he would receive a stipend for doing autopsies, so physician salary was already established to be on par with these other elected officials,” Amos said.

Amos said the state’s supreme court has stated that physicians, regardless of specialty, are qualified for a physician salary. “Therefore, the only difference I see between Dr. Kohr and myself is that I am female, and I feel that this is very discriminatory,” Amos said.

Councilman Mike Morris said when Kohr was coroner, he was performing autopsies for the county. Now, the county has to pay to have those autopsies performed, he said.

“It was my understanding when we worked with him, when I was on the council before, that was part of his salary. He mentioned it more than once. He mentioned it every time he came before a budget committee,” Morris said.

Amos said when she was coroner 2000 to 2004, she was paid the same as other office holders. In addition, Amos said Kohr did not ask for the coroner’s 2013 budget to be doubled from $50,000 to $100,000 for autopsy fees. That is money that would pay for her salary increase, Amos said.

After the meeting, Amos said she “feels they directly discriminated against me. Whenever they changed the salary ... they did it directed at myself. It is not fair, it is not right and it is not on par with anything else in the state of Indiana,” Amos said.

Amos said she will next likely “talk to my attorney.”

County Auditor Tim Seprodi, after the council vote, said Kohr in a June 18 budget committee “said autopsies will be charged on an individual basis, which caused the increase in the autopsy fees. Dr. Kohr is on the recording.”

Seprodi said Amos had requested minutes of the council, but first requested minutes from Sept. 12, a date the council or a committee did not meet. “I could not comply with that date, but we are gathering the information and will get it to her by Friday,” Seprodi told the council.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@

tribstar.com.

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