GREENFIELD — A former coroner who was removed from office in 2012 after showing up, impaired, to the scene of a death investigation has rejoined the staff as a deputy coroner.
Tamara Vangundy served as the elected coroner from 2009 until mid-2012, when she was arrested at the scene of a suicide with a blood-alcohol content of 0.16 percent, twice the legal limit. She served one year of probation after pleading guilty in the case, and Friday, she said she is ready to put the past behind her.
“I took responsibility,” said Vangundy, who added that elected Coroner Crystel Myers asked her to rejoin the staff. “I did what was necessary to fulfill the punishment that was given to me, and I’ve moved on and become a better person. Lessons learned.”
Vangundy said her certification to investigate deaths has remained valid, and she hopes to enter the rotation of deputy coroners as early as next week.
“It’s an honor to be able to serve my community again,” she said. “So many prayers have been answered.”
Vangundy, who also works part time at a local store and as a business manager for a dental office, will join Chief Deputy Coroner Rudy Nylund and deputy coroners Steve Slinkard and David McWhorter.
Meanwhile, Myers has stopped taking on death investigations as she battles legal troubles of her own.
Myers was arrested on a theft charge in December after she was accused of shoplifting at Wal-Mart in Greenfield. She is awaiting trial.
Nylund confirmed Friday that while Myers has focused on her criminal case, he and Slinkard have taken the vast majority of cases – about 50 total so far this year.
Vangundy said Myers, who could not be reached for comment, approached her about rejoining the staff to ease the burden on her deputies.
“It’s overwhelming, and it’s not fair to them because they’re losing their family lives,” she said. “I’m here just to help this department.”
Nylund said he received a text message from Myers about two weeks ago indicating she planned to ask Vangundy to rejoin the staff but he has not spoken to her since.
Vangundy applied for a deputy coroner position after Myers was elected to succeed her. Myers said then she didn’t think the community had been given enough time to heal.
Nylund said he wants to set up an in-person meeting with Myers and Vangundy before adding Vangundy to the coroner call rotation.
“I just want to make sure everyone is on the same page before I start assigning any new deputy (to a death investigation),” Nylund said.
Prior to winning the coroner election in 2008, Vangundy served as a deputy coroner for eight years. It was a job she said she remains passionate about doing for her community.
“Everyone’s entitled to a second chance,” she said. “I did my job with passion. I did my job with respect. When the opportunity came (to be a deputy coroner), I just started crying. I was just praising God.”