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Going Public: Rep. Voss Speaks About Intro of HB 2777, Aiming To Establish Standards and Requirements For MO Coroners

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Cape Girardeau County Administration Building
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Cape Girardeau County Administration Building

Since Feb. 8th, the position of Cape Girardeau County Coroner has been in transition.

A series of investigations were launched, and complaints were filed by affected parties to the Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, leading him to file a petition to remove elected Cape Girardeau County Coroner Wavis Jordan from office, with an order from a judge.

Among the criminal charges, AG Bailey alleged that Jordan committed one count of misdemeanor stealing and three counts of providing false information to vital records when he stole cash from a dead person and lied on multiple death certificates.

If convicted, he faces up to 12 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The alleged criminal charges against Jordan are still pending. His next court date is set for March 8, 2024.

The Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Office recently appointed David Taylor as Deputy Coroner, during a County Commissioners meeting on Feb. 15. Taylor previously served as Bollinger Co. Coroner.

On the Missouri state level, there are very few legal qualifications for the elected position of county coroner, and these rules have largely stood since August 28, 1945.

Simply stated:

"No person shall be elected or appointed to the office of coroner unless he be a citizen of the United States, over the age of twenty-one years, and shall have resided within the state one whole year, and within the county for which he is elected, six months next preceding the election."

In the case of a medical examiner, this position is appointed, and according to the CDC, "the county medical examiner shall be a physician duly licensed to practice by the state board of the healing arts."

However, in current Missouri law, Cape Girardeau County is not required to hold a medical examiner position.

In each county of the state, except in counties of the second class which prior to January 1, 1975, have a population of more than one hundred twenty thousand and less than two hundred thousand, and counties of the first class not having a charter form of government and any other county which adopts the provisions of sections 58.700 through 58.765, there shall be an office of coroner. Mo. Ann. Stat. § 58.010.

And here lies the position of many rural and rural adjacent counties—many are not required to appoint a permanent medical examiner. So, the coroner is the only option—and it is up to the voters to determine whether the elected person has the proper training for the job, and up to the task.

On Thursday, we spoke with Republican Rep. John Voss (MO-147th District) about his recently introduced legislation under the Emergency Clause— HB 2777—which as he states, 'aims to establish clear qualification standards, ensuring that individuals in these roles are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills.'

If passed by the Missouri Assembly, the bill would require the Coroner Standards and Training Commission to issue a comprehensive report detailing the new standards before January 1, 2025.

This legislation could play a major role in ensuring the preparedness and professionalism of such an important role as county coroner across the state.

Under the proposed legislation, Missouri coroners would be required to meet a dual set of qualifications, including equivalent certification levels of an emergency medical technician (EMT) and specialized training in death investigations.

"By setting higher standards for training and qualifications, we are taking a significant step towards enhancing the credibility and effectiveness of the coroner's office in Missouri, ensuring that those in these roles are well-prepared for the diverse challenges they may encounter," said Voss in a statement.

However, even if passed—which would be record time—it would not take effect in time for the next primary candidate filing date for the office of Cape Girardeau County Coroner, which opens Tues. Feb. 27 and continues through Tues. March 26, 2024.

To add to an already complex situation in Cape County, there are also multiple offices on the local level that are open this year: Assoc. Commissioner: Dist. 1 and 2, Sheriff, Assessor, Treasurer, and Public Administrator.

On the state level, the list of open offices is no less consequential: U.S. Senator, Governor; Lieutenant Gov. Secretary of State; State Treasurer; Attorney General, Rep. of Congress: Dist. 8, and Member of the House of Representatives in Districts 146, 147, and 151; and Circuit Judge: Circuit No. 32-Div. 2.

August 6th, 2024 is Missouri's primary election date.

At the time of this story, the bill had been read a second time, but was not currently on a House calendar for debate.

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