Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Coroner candidates spar

Incumbent Parrott, challenger Owens debate on public TV

By Cindi Andrews
Enquirer staff writer

FOREST PARK - A prominent doctor challenging Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Carl Parrott said Tuesday that he would bring trust and dignity to a scandal-ridden office.

Parrott, on the other hand, said his expertise in pathology has already brought the office national recognition and past problems won't be repeated.

Dr. O'dell Owens, 57, a fertility expert, and Parrott, 55, sparred Tuesday night during a live debate organized by Waycross Community Media on public access TV.

The coroner's office, typically a low-profile county office, has gotten more attention since the 2001 discovery that artist Thomas Condon was taking photos of posed bodies in the morgue. Parrott denied knowledge of Condon's activities, but the families of those photographed are suing the county for millions of dollars.

"These events happened almost four years ago," Parrott said Tuesday. "We were investigated three ways to Sunday. ... Something like this won't happen again."

Owens shot back: "It's a shame, Dr. Parrott, that it has taken three major lawsuits to get the coroner's office to respond."

Parrott's office has also been sued for removing brains from people's bodies without permission.

Owens, the Democratic candidate, is a member of U.S. Bank's board of directors and a former trustee of the University of Cincinnati.

He is not a pathologist, but the coroner doesn't have to be in Ohio. The job requires a good administrator, not a hands-on expert, Owens said.

"Everyone has a reverence around death and grieving, and this has been lost at the coroner's office under Dr. Parrott," he said.

Parrott, a Republican, worked for former Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Frank Cleveland until Cleveland's 1994 retirement. Parrott was appointed to replace him and has been re-elected twice since.


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