Printed Letters: March 28, 2014

Coroner article based on misrepresentation

A death certificate is an official document used by the state to report and track deaths for statistical purposes, and the information is readily available at the Colorado State Health Department website. In every case I have performed since 1992, I provided a death certificate without exception.

Sunday’s front-page article titled “Files Not Found” is based on a gross and conveniently timed political misrepresentation. It claims that the lack of a written autopsy report in some cases has hindered the county’s ability to track and report death in our community.  Yes, all reports should have been completed; however, all information regarding cases that have been performed since 1992 is available in written or electronic format.

For years I always made myself available to assist law enforcement at scenes, served as a reference and expert to the legal community (typically without fees), provided community education and maintained high autopsy rates. Mesa County received full value while I served.

In contrast, over the last seven years, with two years’ exception, autopsy rates have declined, yet the coroner budget has increased. Pathologist assistance at scenes has greatly diminished or has been absent, even in notable instances.

Calendar year 2013 saw the lowest number of autopsies performed in many years, despite a growing population. A declining autopsy rate means some cases, generally “presumed natural” are not autopsied. The lack of an autopsy diminishes our opportunity to detect, monitor and respond to disease.

So, with two board-certified forensic pathologists with 27 and 14 years of experience, we now struggle to elect one as coroner. I’ve always maintained that each of us possesses different attributes. What are the qualities you seek in a community forensic physician?  I personally believe the answer is experience, communication, philosophy and passion for the work.

DR. ROB KURTZMAN
Forensic pathologist
Former Mesa County Coroner
Grand Junction


While adhering to GOP values,
 Havlik’s a doctor and not a pol

I have been the elected Mesa County coroner since 2007 and truly enjoy this public service. When I started, it was a priority of mine that our office perform our duties and operate appropriately. 

Sunday’s Sentinel examined the issue of incomplete work by the coroner’s office before I took over in 2007. The information was brought to the Sentinel by former employees. When asked about the subject, I answered those questions truthfully. 

It is important that our work in the coroner’s office is complete, thorough and timely for every death our office investigates. This is what we are charged to do and shows a lack of respect if we don’t fulfill our duties. 

Since I became coroner in 2007, our office has had 100 percent completion of our service to Mesa County citizens. Because of this, we can help the community in ways that have never been done before. We complete annual reports and suicide reports. We get involved with agencies such as the Health Department and Suicide Coalition. Our reports are available to view at http://www.coroner.mesacounty.us.  The public service aspect is very important, and it is what Mesa County deserves.

I am a doctor and not a politician. I think you would agree that a politician should not be a coroner. Despite this, the one area in which I’ve been criticized is that I switched to Republican.

When I learned I would be challenged for coroner, I studied political values for the first time and quickly realized that Republican values are my own. Personal responsibility and fiscal responsibility are big Republican values; these values are certainly evident by how I live my life and by the work we do in the coroner’s office. I hope to continue my service as your elected coroner.

DEAN HAVLIK, MD
Mesa County Coroner
Grand Junction


Teachers leave Title I schools 
because of scant job security

As an elementary principal of a Title I school for more than 15 years, I think I can answer the question about why Title I teachers do not stay at those schools. From my experience, it is not the money or the difficult children. (I would put the children at Dos Rios up against any school in terms of how they behave).

The main reason given to me over the years was the uncertainty of the funding. Each year we never knew if we would have enough money to hire back all of the teachers. Some teachers had a difficult time not knowing where they might be the following year. These teachers are hired as temporary teachers, who have no guarantee of that position the following year.

If you want to keep the good teachers at a Title I school, give them some guarantee that they can stay at the school, which is difficult given the way federal dollars are allocated.

JEFFREY PHILLIPS
Whitewater


ACLU stands up for rights
 of everyone, even Penry’s

I applaud Josh Penry’s avid use of his freedom of speech and civil rights to say what he pleases through his column. The ACLU has always taken up these rights for him and all people, regardless of how unpopular such rights might be with various other groups.

The GOP platform states, “We The People: A Restoration of Constitutional Government.” It also states, “All security measures and police actions should be viewed through the lens of the Fourth Amendment; for if we trade liberty for security, we shall have neither.”

Perhaps Penry, former minority leader, is not familiar with his party’s platform, or once again his willingness to honor that mission statement and the Constitution surfaces only when both conform to the city’s and his purposes.

We have all the laws and ordinances we need to discourage what the council and Penry consider harassment. Except one: complete removal of the homeless and undesirables from downtown. Is the panhandler ordinance another way to allow police to remove obvious uncomfortable signs of classism, poverty, alcoholism and mental illness that walk daily on our streets?

Penry asserts that “they just can’t harass the elderly or the disabled” that the ordinance defines as “at risk.” The fact is that the homeless and panhandlers are at risk, are disabled and most often afflicted with mental illness and ill-equipped to represent themselves — thus the ACLU.

Our city financially supports the Avalon for a minority of affluent citizens but not the outreach housing project for those in need. They want the downtown park for use by families shopping on Main Street that have homes, in effect removing the homeless.

I sincerely hope none of Penry’s children develop mental illness or suffer wartime trauma like many homeless veterans that come from homes like his and mine.

The ACLU is extreme; it stands up for the rights of everyone, even the unpopular. A perfect world would not need the ACLU.

PATRICIA SUSMAN
Grand Junction


City Council must ascertain 
if GJEP is truly successful

A recent Sentinel article said that GJEP “believes it has six success stories from last year expanding businesses or expanding new businesses in the grand Valley.” What are the names of those businesses? If it has actually happened, there is no need to hide the names.

GJEP and its predecessors have been around for about 30 years (shortly after Exxon pulled out in 1982). The current budget is $450,000. If we assume an average annual budget of $250,000 for 30 years, economic development has spent $7.5 million attracting companies. Who besides Reynolds Polymer is still around?

Trying to attract the parents of one Colorado Mesa University student at a time through flyers is a poor use of time, effort and money. GJEP is like every other government-funded program in that, regardless of lack of success, it refuses to fold its tent and go away. The lack of success is the story the City Council needs to address when asked to pony up almost 10 percent of GJEP’s annual budget.

D.D. LEWIS
Clifton


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