The Edmond Sun

May 9, 2013

Proposed state budget provides more dollars for ME’s office

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — The Office of Chief Medical Examiner will receive an additional $2.5 million in funding if the $7.2 billion budget passes this session, said state Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond.

Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders agreed on a $7.2 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2014. The budget blueprint targets funding increases to education and health, child welfare and state infrastructure.

“With last year’s increase … this should be enough to cover the cost of a new facility over the next 20-30 years as well as the additional staff and equipment needed,” said Grau, R-Edmond. The additional amount is not itemized, Grau said.

The Medical Examiner’s Office should be built once the $38.5 million in bonds are released. State Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, said the Legislature is working through the issue. The Master Lease program had been approved by the state Legislature last year as well as by the State Regents for Higher Education as a way to issue the bonds for the project.

An attempt in February to stop the Master Lease program from funding the construction of the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office on the campus of UCO failed 4-0 at a meeting of the Council of Bond Oversight. The council approved the item.

“I think we are waiting to see what the future of the Master Lease program looks like in light of pending litigation,” Jolley stated to The Sun.

Senate Bill 1337 in 2010 agreed to place the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in close proximity to the UCO Forensic Science Institute and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation crime lab, which stand across Second Street from each other. Without funds for the move, the ME’s office has remained on the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center campus at 901 N. Stonewall in Oklahoma City.

The ME’s office lost its accreditation with the National Association of Medical Examiners in 2009 and has fired two chief medical examiners in two years. The association issued a report noting the deficiencies result from an inadequate staff due to a lack of funding. Also, the agency’s equipment and facilities are obsolete, the association’s report stated. | 341-2121