According to our state constitution, the county coroner is the only elected official charged by law with conducting inquests. This hearing is designed to determine the manner of a person’s death, be it suicide, homicide, accident or natural.
Prior to the 1960s, coroners in South Carolina issued arrest warrants for people who an inquest jury decided were responsible for a homicide. The county sheriff and the coroner often went together to apprehend the suspect. The county solicitor set a date for trial, often presenting the case to a grand jury for further approval of prosecution.
At trial, the coroner was called to testify as to who said what at the inquest, amounting to what we would today call hearsay. Regardless, that testimony was about all it took to get a murder conviction.
Coroners are among several public officials who can order that an autopsy be done by a forensic pathologist.
Autopsies in Charleston County are done at the Medical University by physicians who have years of training and practice investigating deaths.
In 2019, the coroner remains charged with the sole responsibility of investigating a death by way of a hearing attended by sworn jurors. The coroner has other duties but not lawful responsibilities. Notification of next of kin is a prime example.
Because the county coroner is no longer directly involved in the prosecution of criminals, it would seem the need for such an office is open to discussion.
Absent a constitutional change, we will always have county coroners in South Carolina. But should taxpayers in Charleston County sustain a budget of $250,000 a year for an office that provides services that are not required?
With respect, the current personnel in the coroner’s office are all well-trained, compassionate and professional. But the cost of maintaining this office is excessive.
Maybe Charleston County officials should consider moving most of the coroner’s office budget to the sheriff’s office. A coroner and one deputy should be able to handle any work required by law.
Harbor Oaks Drive
A helping hand
On the morning of April 16, eight Bethel United Methodist Church members, all retired, were unloading 8,500 pounds of canned food from trucks to our church food pantry to eventually give away.
From his patrol car, Charleston Police Officer Nick Jones saw us working, exited his car and offered to help, stepping into the “bucket line.”
After several minutes and noting the considerable lifting left to do, he got on his police radio and summoned two more officers, Leroy Roberts and Kevin Schlieden, who joined us.
We finished far sooner, thanks to these good men. The three officers are, in two words, Charleston’s finest.
Cuts to local aid
We have read about how the South Carolina Legislature is looking into a new process to fund Aid to Local Subdivisions (counties and municipalities).
In the past, according to the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, 4.5 percent of the previous year’s budget was allocated to local governments. This law passed in 1991, but in 2008, the Legislature cut this funding by $18 million. This reduction has continued for the past 11 years and, during this time, some $879 million has been eliminated from the counties and municipalities.
In 2018 alone, this was a cut of $141 million under the 1991 law by proviso that negated the law for a year.
Now, the Legislature is proposing a new formula that takes effect in July 2020 or 2021. When the Legislature cuts funds to local governments, lawmakers effectively get to spend that money elsewhere in the budget. They are stealing from local governments.
If you live in a county or municipality that has raised the local tax millage over the past 11 years, you can thank your state senator and representative because they are the ones who likely caused most of it by cutting local funding.
This is a serious issue that your legislators are silent about. Ask them why they don’t honor the law passed in 1991.
HARRY C. STILLE
Due West Town Council and former S.C. House member
Bernice Brown Lane
Boeing and unions
I read about claims of shoddy production work at Boeing in the April 21 Post and Courier and the April 20 New York Times, and took note of the remark about South Carolina having the lowest union representation in the nation, giving Boeing a less expensive workforce.
I wonder how we have gotten to the point where money is the only thing that matters, and companies want nonunion labor because they want to cut costs.
Unions are what give working people a voice. Most assume it’s only about wages and benefits, but union members can protect the public by having a voice.
When certified nursing assistants (CNA) at nursing homes aren’t paid or treated well, it also affects the people they take care of, which could be you or someone you love.
When nurses are fighting for safe patient ratios, the person in that hospital could be you or your loved one.
When teachers want smaller class sizes and enough money to work only one job, that overcrowded classroom or exhausted teacher could be the one teaching your child or grandchild.
When an aerospace worker wants a union so he has a safe work schedule and can speak up when he sees something unsafe, you might think it doesn’t affect you, but it might someday if you are on a plane and something goes wrong.
Safety, not money, should be what is most important to us, not just on the day it personally affects us.
We should support employees who want to organize because we are all better off when they have a voice in how their job is done.
I know when I joined a union as a flight attendant, a voice on the job was important to our safety and the public’s safety.
Let’s start supporting the working people who keep us safe.
President S.C. AFL-CIO
Short River Court
An April 24 letter to the editor incorrectly stated that Post and Courier food editor and critic Hanna Raskin has not worked as a server in restaurants.
She has 15 years of serving experience.