KANE COUNTY - Keeping a county department's budget flat for three years isn't as easy as it sounds, Kane County Coroner Rob Russell is finding out, and the issue has become a point of contention between him and Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen.
Russell agreed to keep his department's budget at the same level for three years starting last year, but his budget for 2015 ignited a controversy that had Chairman Lauzen scouring the proposal. Lauzen challenged Russell on proposed raises for staff members and spending over $1000 on Silly Putty.
It's not easy to make the public comfortable with something like the coroner's office, so Russell buys Silly Putty to entertain children who visit his office or to hand out during community events. Lauzen and the board chose to keep Russell's 2015 budget flat, despite the coroner's requests.
Russell, who oversees the state's first accredited coroner's office, was clearly upset when he asked on his Facebook page Saturday if the children of Kane County deserve less than .01 percent of his budget:
Russell says that the Silly Putty is really not the reason he requested more funds in 2015. The main reason he needs more is because of the expense of mandated autopsies.
"I'm not going to make a decision on an autopsy based on finances," Russell told The Daily Herald. "That's like a law enforcement officer saying we're not going to arrest people because we don't have money. We do autopsies based on stringent standards. If we don't do them when they are needed, there are possible legal ramifications."
Lauzen's response to Russell was to hire former coroner Mary Lou Kearns for $20,000 to evaluate how Russell is determining whether or not to perform autopsies.