Questions have been raised recently after Franklin County’s Coroner admitted to removing a funeral home from its rotation to transport bodies.
For at least five years, the Franklin County Coroner’s Office, led by Dan Blasdel, has used two of the county’s four funeral homes as a vendor to transport the bodies of those who pass away within the County, rotating between the two businesses on a monthly basis.
According to memorandums of understanding Newsradio 610 KONA received through a public records request, Mueller’s Greenlee Funeral Homes and Hillcrest Bruce Lee Funeral Home aren’t typically paid for many of the services they provide to the county.
However, if the funeral home has possession of a body, a family might be more inclined to have that funeral home take care of burial and funeral arrangements, if they don’t already have a preference.
There does not appear to be an actual contract in place. However, the county has ongoing memorandums of understanding (MOU) with Mueller’s Greenlee Funeral Home and Hillcrest Bruce Lee Funeral Home, both in Pasco.
The most recent MOU was authorized by the Franklin County Board of Commissioners on January 1, 2015, and runs through December 31, 2018. The MOU states that the Coroner has the right to extend the agreement, which includes both Greenlee and Hillcrest, through 2019. The document also states that any of the three parties involved in the agreement can terminate it, as long as there is a written 30-days notice.
“At the first of the year I had sent out a change in the agreement as far as the prices that the county would pay, and I asked for Bruce Lee and Greenlee to sign those and return them to me. Bruce Lee signed the agreement and sent it back, Greenlee never did. I sent them a follow-up e-mail, asked them sign it and send it back, they never did.”
Blasdel says it wasn’t until decision came after someone in his office was was involved in a confrontation with an employee at the business.
“My Chief Deputy was involved in a confrontation with one of the employees from Greenlee Funeral Home, saying that the rotation was a bunch of crap, and that they– it wasn’t profitable for them to be hauling the bodies for the coroner’s office, taking them to the hospital for x-rays, etc., etc.,” Blasdel told KONA. “And that was brought up in a July staff meeting. And so I made the decision to take Mueller’s off the rotation schedule.”
The coroner’s log for August 2018 shows that that Mueller’s Greenlee Funeral Home should have been on the rotation for August. Greenlee was asked to respond to a fatal motor vehicle accident on August 3rd. Family members of people who passed away on August 4th and 8th requested specific funeral homes. Greenlee should have been called again on August 10th, but Hillcrest was called instead, and the Franklin County Coroner’s office called Hillcrest for the remainder of the month, as well as during the entire month of September.
Blasdel is currently running for re-election as Franklin County’s Coroner. For the first time in many years, he faces a challenger in Curtis McGary, who currently works for Mueller’s Funeral Homes.
The primary election was held on August 7, 2018. McGary was 108 votes short of defeating Blasdel in the
primary. Because they were the only candidates in the primary, McGary faces Blasdel again in the coming general election on November 6, 2018.
When asked if the decision to remove Mueller’s Greenlee Funeral Home from the rotation just days after the primary had anything to do with the fact that an employee at Mueller’s was challenging him for his seat, Blasdel said simply, “No.”
In the coming months, the county will put out a request for bids for mortuary services, which is expected to allow a fee schedule.
Blasdel says the bids will be sealed, and County Commissioners will determine which of the bidding funeral homes to select for a one year contract. Until then, Blasdel says Mueller’s has been returned to the rotation. In fact, he says, Mueller’s will be on the rotation exclusively through the end of the year in order to make up for the two months that it lost.