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Publish Date: 10/20/2006

Faure blind-sided by endorsements
Coroner candidate questions why opponent is being favored by law enforcement

LONGMONT — Boulder County Coroner Tom Faure has contacted local law enforcement leaders to try to smooth over strained relationships that were recently highlighted when two police organizations endorsed his opponent in the November election.

Neither union had invited Faure to vie for their support as he seeks a second four-year term in November.

Both the Longmont Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 6 and the Boulder Police Officers Association this month endorsed independent candidate Lisa Jo Floyd, an emergency room physician at the Medical Center of Aurora, for the post.

Faure on Wednesday said no one in law enforcement has brought up issues with him and that he has had positive experiences with local law enforcement.

“I don’t know the exact nature of this,” Faure said, noting that he called the president of the BPOA for more information. “I am interested in finding out what it is, but I can’t get return calls.”

Boulder County Sheriff’s Office employees don’t have a group like the Longmont or Boulder police departments’, but Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said Tuesday that when the endorsements were made public, Faure called him to talk over potential problems.

“We talked about some of the issues that were brought up by the police unions and that some of my investigators have brought up,” Pelle said, adding that he feels that Faure is open to listening to the criticism.

Some of that criticism, according to some in local law enforcement, includes communication between the coroner’s office and detectives during investigations, long waits for toxicology tests, and turnover in the coroner’s office.

Cmdr. Phil West of the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office said sheriff’s investigators have good relationships with Faure’s staff.

“The problems that we experience are typically more administrative,” West said.

He said it is frustrating that routine death investigations can take up to six weeks to close, while awaiting toxicology tests from the St. Louis Medical Examiner’s Office, which is where Boulder County toxicology tests are sent for analysis.

“Essentially, the investigation has been done,” West said, adding that the case cannot be closed without the toxicology reports. “These are typically delayed a month or more.”

Faure said it isn’t uncommon for a lab to take weeks to complete toxicology tests.

“The bottom line is we owe it to the family to be as thorough as we can,” he said.

He said he chose the St. Louis lab through networking in the forensics community but does not issue a request for proposals to find lab services. He said he likes the lab to have a good reputation, a board-certified forensic toxicologist and reasonable prices.

He said a toxicology error can seriously complicate a death investigation.

Floyd has said publicly that she would try to find a Colorado-based lab with faster turnarounds to speed closure for families and investigators.

She added that her qualifications as a physician transfer well to the rigors of death investigation and determining causes and manners of death.

Mike Violette, spokesman for Longmont’s Fraternal Order of Police organization, said the group’s endorsement was based on a discussion with Floyd and on input detectives provided about the working relationship with the coroner’s office.

“Based on a lot of different little things, we thought Lisa would probably be the better choice,” Violette said, noting that he could not offer specifics.

The Boulder Police Officers’ Association endorsement said Floyd would improve vital relations between the coroner’s office and the police, who rely on the coroner for information in death investigations.

“After listening to Dr. Floyd speak about her vision for the coroner’s office, Boulder law enforcement believe that she will bring welcome changes to the position,” BPOA president Rich Denig wrote in the endorsement. “We believe the primary improvements Dr. Floyd would implement include improved communication with law enforcement and improved efficiency with laboratory results, which will benefit criminal investigations.”

Denig said Faure called him after the endorsement was announced, but the two haven’t spoken yet.

Faure served as the chief medical examiner under former county Coroner Dr. John Meyer, who stepped down in 2002 because Colorado law limits elected officials to two terms. Meyer still works in the office as the medical examiner.

West said turnover in the office has been notable during Faure’s term.

According to Boulder County Human Resources, one of six staff positions turned over during Meyer’s last term. During Faure’s four years in office, eight positions have opened across the six staff positions.

Faure said death investigation is a challenging job with peculiar hours and mentally stressful demands. He said some people who have left the office didn’t fit the position.

“People don’t always work out,” he said, adding later, “We try to do everything to screen people and make sure they know what the job is about, but it’s a two-way street.”

While Floyd has sought the endorsement of law enforcement and others, Faure said he isn’t ready to announce the names of those who are endorsing him in the race. However, he said he has people lined up to list in campaign advertisements.

The Boulder County coroner is responsible for investigating all sudden or unattended deaths within the county to determine the cause and manner of death. The office provides death certificates, notifies family members, and provides information about the death to families, police agencies, health-care professionals, insurance companies and the public. When necessary, the office provides testimony in civil and criminal proceedings regarding deaths.

Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-684-5273, or by e-mail at pshields@times-call.com.

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