GREENFIELD — The Hancock County Council has voted to cut a portion of the county coroner’s salary and offer it to her deputies, arguing the officeholder’s staff has been doing her job for months.
Crystel Myers, who was elected in 2012, makes $9,570 per year; starting in 2015, $2,000 of that salary will shift to the fund that pays her deputies, who have been conducting all of the county’s death investigations since Myers was arrested in December.
Myers is charged with theft, a Class D felony, after officials at Wal-Mart in Greenfield accused her of shoplifting $100 worth of toys while shopping with a friend at Christmastime.
As discussions opened on the 2015 county budget, Myers had requested an additional $2,000 be allotted for deputy pay for 2015; council members agreed the deputy’s fund needed a boost but opted to take the money from the officeholder instead of appropriating additional funding.
“I don’t want to give her any more money,” council member Kent Fisk said at a budget hearing this week.
Since Myers’ arrest, Chief Deputy Coroner Rudy Nylund and deputies Steve Slinkard and David McWhorter have been handling all the county’s death investigations.
“They’re the ones currently doing the work,” council member Jim Shelby said.
Nylund, who essentially has been running the coroner’s office during Myers’ unofficial absence, said Thursday that he has had little contact with Myers since her arrest.
“As of today’s date, she has not taken any calls so far this year, and she had not taken any since her incident in December,” Nylund said.
Deputies receive $100 per investigation, and the $6,120 allotted to the deputy fund ran out of money last month. Council members made an emergency transfer of $2,100 then in hopes of covering the deputy pay through 2014, but county officials still expressed concerns about the state of the coroner’s budget.
“I’m not sure it’s going to be enough to the end of the year, to tell you the truth,” Auditor Robin Lowder said.
The coroner also received $15,000 from the county food and beverage fund last month to cover the cost of autopsies. That fund, too, was depleted halfway through the year, Lowder said.
Myers did not attend the budget hearing Wednesday at which her salary was cut and said she didn’t know her attendance was expected. Thursday, she expressed dismay at the council’s decision.
“I’m a little shocked,” she said. “The coroner’s office, it doesn’t get paid on a full-time salary, regardless. With that being said, the caseload, it just keeps getting more and more every year.”
Myers, a mother of three young children, does not have another job apart from her duties as coroner. She said the council’s move to decrease her salary will have considerable impact on her family.
“I’m a single-income family right now,” she said. “You’re taking $2,000 away from my kids. You’re not affecting me.”
Myers suggested that if the council was willing to add $2,000 to the fund used to compensate the deputies, it should also consider paying them more per case.
“They only make $100 a call,” Myers said. “Nobody understands the emotional distress and the things that we see on a daily basis. We go home with those things.”
Myers added that her intention has always been to resume her duties as coroner if possible after the conclusion of her criminal case.
Court records indicate she has accepted a plea agreement and will likely be sentenced by the end of the month.
The details of her plea agreement will not become available until the agreement is accepted by a judge.
Kristy Deer of the Daily Reporter staff contributed to this story.