Plagued by massive turnover in recent years, the Adams County Coroner's Office is starting the new year with a clean slate -- really clean. Newly elected coroner Monica Broncucia-Jordan, a former employee who's suing the county over wrongful termination, has begun her term by firing just about everybody left in the place from the previous regime.
Broncucia-Jordan has said the move was intended to open the positions to a wider pool of applicants rather than to settle scores. But the decision highlights the ongoing problems statewide over coroner credentials (in Colorado, you merely have to be 21, a registered voter and not a convicted felon) and a recent history of simmering controversies over the Adams County post.
As detailed in my 2009 feature "Dead Wrong," Broncucia-Jordan's predecessor in the job, Jim Hibberd, left a trail of whistle-blowing former employees, sex-harassment complaints and hard feelings in his wake. Hibberd took heat for hiring a former Diamond Cabaret hostess, a nanny and a waitress as death investigators and for feuding with his own pathologist, Michael Arnall, about autopsy decisions. In the race to succeed Hibberd, Arnall ran against Broncucia-Jordan, who used to assist him in the autopsy suite.
Many of the people Hibberd brought in who seemed to generate the most complaints had left the office well before the latest purge. Can starting from scratch rebuild the credibility of the office and repair damaged relationships with other law enforcement agencies? Perhaps -- but it's going to be interesting to see how Broncucia-Jordan goes about doing that while still pursuing her claim against the county over her own expulsion.
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