Politics & Government

Fayette coroner candidate files ethics complaint against incumbent

Fayette County incumbent coroner Gary Ginn, left, and Republican candidate for coroner Larry Owens
Fayette County incumbent coroner Gary Ginn, left, and Republican candidate for coroner Larry Owens

A Republican candidate for Fayette County coroner has filed an ethics complaint against incumbent coroner Gary Ginn alleging that Ginn works part time but receives a full-time salary.

Larry Owens is requesting that the Urban County Government Ethics Commission investigate Ginn for alleged conflicts of interest and for misuse of public property. Ginn works for the University of Kentucky as the body bequeathal coordinator. Owens, a former coroner's office employee, alleges that Ginn does not go to the coroner's office until after 3 p.m. and only stays until 5 p.m. Yet Ginn receives a salary of $72,000, Owens says.

"We're paying him a full-time salary for half-time work," Owens said. "Taxpayers in Lexington asking to work two hours a day for $72,000 would be laughed out of the interview. But Gary's been getting away with it for a decade."

Ginn on Tuesday denied that he only worked two hours a day and said that he is always available to answer calls when he is at UK. He uses his vacation time to do county work, he said. To boot, Ginn said that when he decided to run for coroner more than a decade ago, UK Medical School officials made sure that there was not a conflict of interest. Ginn said he has never hid that he also works for UK.

Ginn helps the medical school manage the donation of cadavers for medical study. Someone else in the coroner's office handles the donation of bodies to UK to ensure that there is not a conflict, Ginn said. Ginn, who started working at UK in 1986, said his knowledge of anatomy and physiology also helps with death investigations.

"Elected officials set our own times," Ginn said. "I work more than (two hours) every day at the coroner's office. I don't consider the coroner's office to be part time. I put myself on the schedule 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," he said. "I'm out with my deputies investigating death scenes many, many times during the day."

According to data the city released in June to the Herald-Leader, Ginn makes $70,398. Owens said that the $72,000 salary figure came from the proposed budget for this fiscal year, which began July 1. According to the budget, Ginn would make $71,700. Ginn's comments came during a discussion on pay of coroner office staff. Ginn has been pushing for more than a decade to raise the salary of deputy coroners.

Ginn, a Democrat, was first elected in 2002. There is no statute that requires elected county officials to work a minimum number of hours.

As body bequethal coordinator, Ginn makes $53,906 a year, according to data UK provided to the Herald-Leader.

Owens' complaint specifically asks that the Ethics Commission investigate Ginn for alleged conflict of interest regarding his UK job and his duties as coroner and for misuse of public property. Owens alleges that Ginn is able to drive a city-owned vehicle to and from his job at UK. Ginn said Tuesday that he frequently leaves from UK to go to a death investigation scene.

Owens filed the ethics complaint on Friday. The Ethics Commission is scheduled to meet on Sept. 4.