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Grand Jury: Remove Douglas County coroner from office | Investigations

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Ga. (CBS46) – The Douglas County Grand Jury is recommending that the county’s coroner, Renee Godwin, be removed from her position due to lack of knowledge of the responsibilities of a coroner.

In a report released on Tuesday, the Committee said Godwin admitted that she does not have any leadership experience or any management experience on how to run an office.

The decision follows more than a year of exclusive CBS46 Bulldog investigations exposing questionable spending and protocol at the Douglas County Coroner’s office.

Godwin was found in contempt in July for allegedly failing to properly log a child’s death. The chairman of the Douglas County Child Fatality Review Board, Sam Newman, admitted in testimony that for a time, the deaths of children ages zero to seventeen were not reported in a timely manner.

The Committee determined that Godwin on several occasions abused her office and allowed unethical or unprofessional conduct to occur in the office. They also found that in 2018 on two different occasions there was an odor that radiated from the Douglas County Morgue area at the Old County Courthouse. They concluded that the odor passed through the vents up to the museum and classes that were being held on the first floor of the building. They say the odor originated from decaying bodies that were housed in the Morgue.

Here are more highlights from the Grand Jury’s list of recommendations:

1. A new policy should be put in place where the hiring of family members is prohibited when under the direct management.

2. It is recommended that the original emails by Bill Peacock to the local funeral homes in reference to bidding on the placement of Indigent bodies be presented and investigated by the upcoming grand jury and the email addresses verified for accuracy.

3. Private contract Vending is prohibited. We are requesting documentation for Ms. Godwin showing the approval of the vending machines outside of the Office. Until that time, the machines presently located are to be removed immediately.

4. The grand jury has agreed that Larry Bussey’s Duties are redundant to those of the Coroner. Therefore, it’s recommended his position be dissolved.

5. We recommend the vehicle issued to Mr. Bussey be returned to the county immediately.

6. The grand jury recommends that the transport and investigation of a body be one (1) fee and not separated according to how many times the body is transported.

7. The grand jury recommends that whomever is on call be in possession of the coroner’s van to transport bodies including the coroner

8. The current Coroner admitted under oath that the reason she applied for the position is because she has compassion for people. She also admitted that she does not have any leadership experience, any management experience of how to run an office. It is recommended that the Georgia Coroners Association remove the current Coroner from her position and appoint a fill in for the duration of Ms. Godwin’s term due to the lack of knowledge of the responsibilities of a corner.

9. It is recommended that the job responsibilities of a coroner for Douglas County be revisited. This position should entail having management skills, knowledge of cleaning, and upkeep of a morgue.

10. No employee of the County coroner’s office should have other employment that would cause a conflict of interest or create personal gain/benefit.

11. The corner is to review the accuracy of the death certificates prior to signing off on them.

12. It is recommended that a current visible on-call schedule be posted in the Office at all times.

13. We would recommend for the Coroner’s budget to be revisited/adjusted and proofs of purchase presented for verification and accuracy.

14. Visitor logs for the Office and viewing of the bodies in the Morgue are to be updated, clear to read and current at all times.

15. If possible, two to three training locations are to be considered for training of the Coroner’s Office employees. This should include the Coroner.”

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