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Coroner candidates agree office must win back public’s trust

Tao Martinez is Democratic candidate for Kane County coroner.

Tao Martinez is the Democratic candidate for Kane County coroner.

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Tao Martinez

Party: Democrat

Age: 31

Family: Married, 3 children

Hometown: North Aurora

Occupation: President and founder of ArchAngels Biorecovery, which helps with cleanups at death scenes or mass casualty incidents

Previous elected office: None

Robert Russell

Party: Republican

Age: 44

Family: Married, 4 children

Hometown: South Elgin

Occupation: Sergeant with the DuPage County Sheriff’s Department

Previous elected office: None

Updated: October 8, 2012 9:09PM

Both candidates in the Kane County coroner’s race want to restore a sense of integrity to the office.

Both said trust within the office needs to be restored, following the death of former Coroner Chuck West over the summer. West was the subject of a criminal official misconduct case, and a harassment lawsuit filed by one of his deputy coroners.

Republican candidate Robert Russell of South Elgin wants to run the office through a national accreditation program. There would be a series of items the office would have to come into compliance with in order to meet the requirements of the program. This strategy would serve to get the office organized again, and make it friendlier for grants, he said.

“We’d also be sharing ideas done throughout the country,” he said.

Democrat candidate Tao Martinez of North Aurora said that he would work with surrounding counties to strengthen the office, making it a more grant-friendly location. He wants to see the county utilize these grants to be able to purchase equipment at a fraction of the cost, versus relying on budgeted funds for everything.

He also would use the office to create an awareness of different hazards, in an effort to reduce deaths within the county. He said he would do this by working with non-profits around the county.

“That’s the kind of thing that we really need to work together,” he said.

Both candidates acknowledged that the Kane County morgue needs some attention, and that new facilities are probably not an option in a constrained county budget.

But they have different ideas for how to address the issue.

Russell wants to take the opportunity to work with area hospitals and community colleges to create more space and continue building relationships. Martinez wants to purchase mobile morgues with grant money, that would allow the coroner’s office to perform its duties away from the main facility.

Both candidates stressed that the race should be about the candidates and their experience, and not partisan politics.

“There is no partisan way to run a coroner’s office,” Martinez said.

Russell is a sergeant with the DuPage County Sheriff’s Department. His position has given him the experience of handling death scenes in a professional manner, he said.

Martinez is the founder and president of ArchAngels BioRecovery Inc., a company that provides emergency response for infection control at death scenes, where he has assisted medical examiners and coroners. He has degrees and certifications in several areas related to death investigations. He said he also has presented at classes for coroners at various conferences.

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