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Coroner threatens to leave bodies if he doesn’t get a raise

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EMS crews said the county coroner, Tommy Dunagan, refused to respond to the scene of a death because he already worked 20 hours that week.

PROWERS COUNTY, Colo. — The coroner in Prowers County, in southeast Colorado, is asking county leaders to raise his salary or he’ll refuse to pick up bodies. 

In a special meeting, Prowers County Commissioner Ron Cook said he was surprised to get a call from EMS crews on June 1. Cook said they told him the county coroner, Tommy Dunagan, was refusing to respond to the scene of a death because he had already worked his 20-hour work week and his deputy wasn’t available over the Memorial Day weekend. 

Cook said Dunagan said if county commissioners didn’t want to get the person’s body, it could just sit there until he was back on the clock. 

“He did tell me that he couldn’t go on Saturday and had nobody to take the call and that he would respond the following day when he was back on call,” Cook said. 

Dunagan eventually responded to the scene, once commissioners agreed to meet and discuss his salary. 

Dunagan is currently paid part-time. He wants to get bumped to full-time pay, arguing he’s supposed to be on call 24/7. A new state law gave commissioners the discretion to move Dunagan to full-time starting in 2024, but they rejected that idea and gave him money for a deputy instead. 

“I feel it’s appropriate to call you guys because this is completely your decision,” Dunagan said. “It’s no one else’s decision whether I’m full-time or part-time.”

Under state law, commissioners can’t amend the coroner’s salary again until 2026. Dunagan said he’s considering suing the commissioners, and he wants Prowers County to pay for his attorney. 

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Coroner threatens to leave bodies if he doesn’t get a raise

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