<b>ALL ON THE TABLE:</b>  The Santa Barbara Grand Jury found no shortage of faults with the county Coroner’s Office.

Paul Wellman

ALL ON THE TABLE: The Santa Barbara Grand Jury found no shortage of faults with the county Coroner’s Office.

Coroner’s Office: Small and Smelly

Grand Jury Blisters County Coroner’s Office

Thursday, June 27, 2013
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About the only people not bothered by the seriously subpar conditions found at the county Coroner’s Office, it seems, are the dead ones taken there to determine how they got that way. Otherwise, the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury found in its recent report, the Coroner’s Office is woefully deficient and needs a major overhaul from stem to stern. The report contained no price tag for how much the improvements would cost; given how extensive the deficiencies are, the price will be considerable.

Every year, slightly fewer than 3,000 people die in Santa Barbara County; nearly half require some investigation to determine cause. Of those, 150 trigger an autopsy. The coroner first occupied the current digs near the County Jail sometime after 1987, when the county supervisors authorized the creation of a stand-alone facility. (Like the County Jail, the Coroner’s Office is a subset of the Sheriff’s Department.) The Grand Jury could find no evidence of building permits ever being sought ​— ​let alone obtained ​— ​and the facility was built with inmate labor for less than $100,000.

Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Office
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Office

According to the report, there are three structures, and space has been sliced, diced, and jury-rigged over time. The main building is cut in two, and the corridor between them runs past the refrigerator holding up to 16 bodies. Because the ventilation system is more than 25 years old, the report found, the arrangement of these two rooms exposes the entire work environment to “noxious odors and possibly airborne contaminants.” The Grand Jury also concluded that the ventilation system lacks a filtration system capable of trapping airborne pathogens, meaning it could pose a health risk to employees. In addition, the air conditioning system in the autopsy room itself is not strong enough to keep the room comfortably cool on warm days.

Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

The forensic examiner who conducts the autopsies themselves needs a trained full-time assistant, the report concluded; instead, retired employees fill in when there’s a need. The report also faulted the reliance upon obsolete recording equipment. Rather than digital equipment, the forensic examiner speaks into an old-fashioned tape recorder that hangs from the ceiling. The outside of the facility is even worse, according to the report, an abundance “of weeds, untended shrubs, bushes, and ground rodents.”

The Grand Jury recommended that the County Board of Supervisors invest in the infrastructure upgrade needed to transform the office into a facility capable of being accredited by the National Association of Medical Examiners. The timing of the report is politically striking. The current coroner, Sergeant Sandra Brown, has announced she intends to run against incumbent Sheriff Bill Brown (no relation) next year. Since her announcement, she has been put on notice she can make no public statements on behalf of the department. As far as Sheriff Brown, his spokesperson said he intends to provide a detailed response to the report later, but in the meantime appreciates very much the energy and focus the Grand Jury dedicated to the office.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Hey, the County needs that money for employee compensation - we don't need no County ME.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2013 at 8:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Wait a minute, if the Sheriff is the Sheriff/Coroner, how can some sergeant be the "current coroner"? Why is the forensic pathologist not the coroner?

We have a doctor who cuts up the bodies and makes medical determinations and some two bit sergeant is over him? What the hell kind of system is this?

I think the deplorable state of the building that houses the
Coroner's office says it all - the investigation of suspicious deaths is a joke as far as the Sheriff's concerned.

Conclusion: If you want to get away with murder in this county, just beat the victim to death and dump the body on the beach anywhere below the bluffs or on the train tracks - cause of death will be a foregone conclusion.

After all, the Sheriff's got more important things to do like ginning up a phony panga invasion and scavenging money to keep his fleet of helicopters flying - who's got time for dead people?

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
June 28, 2013 at 2:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Maybe the next Sheriff will get it right. I seriously doubt it go no one seems to really give a damn about anything here..Let me add if you want to get away with morder just dress the stiff up in rags and leave it on the streets of Santa Barbara.

Byrd (anonymous profile)
June 28, 2013 at 6:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Gee, I feel so much safer now that the Grand Jury has tackled this non-issue.

discoboy (anonymous profile)
June 28, 2013 at 9:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Non issue? Check out the Sheriff's annual report - he has an unlimited ammount of money for "vital" equipment like brand new pickups and horse trailers for the "mounted unit", a fancy armored car for the SWAT team, shiny new ATVs for search and rescue, but the county coroner's office is housed in some POS building that apparently was built by amatures who didn't even have a building permit.

I can't be certain what kind of putz would consider this a "non issue", but odds are he wears some type of badge.

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
June 28, 2013 at 10:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Gee, Spiritwalker, that's not a lot of help to the presented problem. I'm retired, and would be happy to clean both inside and outside, including planting cacti and succulents. All I think I'd need are cleaning supplies, elbow grease and vicks. Death is sad, but inevitable for all of us. Show respect the best we can, and help out our local facility. Coroner's office, contact me if you'd like a couple of days per week of volunteer hrs.

patrick58 (anonymous profile)
June 28, 2013 at 10:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Me, "volunteer" to "help" the Sheriff DO anthything? The SBSO is mismanged from top to bottom, why should ANYONE volunteer when their efforts will only help the department go even further off the rails?

Does anyone actually read the Sheriff's annual report? (I know it's pretty nauseating to to have to witness such an orgy of self congratulation from supposed "heroes", but there is SOME usefull info.) Did you read the grand jury's report? Do you understand it at all? You don't seem to because it's gonna take a lot more than volunteers with rags and lysol to correct the problem at the Coroner's bureau.

Furthermore, I just couldn't bring myself do ANYTHING to support such a shallow self promoter as "our" Sheriff - I mean for God's sake, two of his deputies illegally entered a home in Orcutt last year, and flat out murdered a man who's only crimes were arguing loudly and being in fear for his life. And even though Sheriff Wonderfull somehow got Governor Moonbeam to appoint him to the state "mental health commission", he didn't see fit to discipline the killers in any way for offing someone that obviously had mental issues.

Now excuse me because I have to vomit!

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
June 28, 2013 at 1:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

spiritwalker : Did you find a 2011-2012 report? Where?
One of the many serious deficiencies mentioned in the GJ report is that "the continued use of part-time retired staff is not adequate to assist during autopsies", and the GJ recommends that "the Sheriff -Coroner employ a full-time forensic technician within the next two years". The GJ's report describes theinadequacies in the facility, in records storage, lack of training of detectives investigating death crime scenes, absence of a forensic tech, inconsistent training of staff in infection control and blood-borne pathogens, inadequate and potentially hazardous ventilation with no filtration, and revocation of the Industrial Waste Disposal permit by Goleta Sanitary District due to violation of its Ordinance 77, dumping of medical and infectious waste in the sewer system. The report mentions an archaic audio recording system used by pathologists, but ignores the absence of any video recording during autopsies, so there is no record of the visible appearance of any deceased person, including injuries, trauma or disease, other than an audio recording made by a pathologist contractor to the county. This place is such a mess I don't know if trained staff would be willing to work there. This isn't a volunteer opportunity, and, although landscape maintenance may be appropriate for volunteers, it's a minor issue relative to the inadequacies in the coroner's office's ability to function at a minimum legal standard as a coroner's office. If this were a related private operation, it would be fined hundreds of thousands of $$ for noncompliance with relevant public health, zoning, and OSHA
This is a budget allocation debacle, as spiritwalker states.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
June 28, 2013 at 1:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

No, I haven't actually ever seen a grand jury report, and am embarassed that someone is WAY better informed on this subject than me. (I try to research this stuff, but they don't make it easy to find a lot of supposedly public information.)

Anyway, since you apparently work in the Coroner's bureau, I appologise if I came off as badmouthing the staff - it's just so frustrating that all the Sheriff's time and energy seem to be focused on aquiring a bunch of "stuff" that really doesn't seem to do anything but pad his resume and provide reelection photo ops.

Hopefully enough voters will take notice of this sad situation and someone will be forced to at least improve your working conditions to the point where it isn't a health hazard just to be in the building.

Until then, always remember: "Somebody has to sit on the curb and clap when all the heroes drive by."

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
June 28, 2013 at 2:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This just in from yours truly, spiritwalkers anointed SBSO PIO,

Oh yes, the ever flippant spiritwalker who hasn’t made a coherent statement what so ever on any subject matter. You’re continual blabbering of assumptions, accusations and complete nonsense is tiresome.

Yes, yes spiritwalker, I know, you don’t need to do any research. You have all your information coming in from your extraterrestrial supreme leader. You just keep blowing hot air and keep typing your tin foil hat manifesto propaganda it shows your ignorance well.

If you had done any type of grade school research you would have found that the “Armored car” and “ATV’s” you referred to you would have learned that these and other big ticket items or in your words, “Toys” were purchased with private money from private foundations. NOT PUBLIC TAX DOLLARS….. But that would take intelligence something you are lacking.

In SB County the Sheriff is also the Coroner that is why the position is called Sheriff/Coroner. But don’t let these little facts get in the way. There is a Sgt. assigned to the unit due to the fact this unit has deputy sheriff detectives and office support personnel. The Pathologist is assigned to the unit to perform autopsies. Again, grade school research would have found simple answers to simple questions. Yet, simple minds can’t figure that out.

You really are an embarrassment to society. Your limited knowledge of reality and fiction is mind boggling. You really need to seek immediate medical attention for your mindless babbling. I hear Obamacare might help, but, watch out for the lobotomy procedure… Oh wait; you’ve obviously already had that procedure done…

Priceless (anonymous profile)
June 28, 2013 at 9:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

People like Spitwalker have never been on the inside of a public safety agency. Combine ignorant perceptions, a bit of insecure fear and an uncontrollable desire to whine about something he'll never participate in and you get diatribes of BS.

On the other hand, his perceptions of a self centered department head are right on. I guess that is obvious to the public.

Validated (anonymous profile)
June 29, 2013 at 12:08 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hah, when it comes to flying off the handle, our illustrious PIO is THE poster child!

The fact is that I spend a great deal of time TRYING to research issues that are supposedly public information. The fact is that financial details like where the money for all the shiney new toys the SBSO just couldn't live without is not available either at the offical website or in the Sheriff's annual "report'. (The fact is, both sources are nothing more than self agrandising LEO "porn".) The fact is that if that if the SBSO's "PIO" actually provided detailed info that the public is entitled to instead of making BS excuses and writing transparently false propaganda like the great panga hoax, I wouldn't have a whole lot to complain in regard to her department.

As for never having been "on the inside of a public safety agency", I spent 3 1/2 years in a military police company. 90% of the MPs I knew had either been cops before joining the military or planned on becoming one upon leaving the military, or both. Even though I wasn't an MP myself, I was foced to sit through hundreds of hours of MP classrom "training" (if that's what you wanna call it) - I've heard the police acadamy "psychology" (if that's what you wanna call it) and I know all the BS tactics cops like to use against "civilians". I know how you people think - I KNOW YOU!

(BTW, Precious, I really feel bad about you having to sit in front of 2 monitors all day - the horrors one has to face for a MEASLY $160,000 per year, eh?)

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
June 29, 2013 at 6:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"You spent 3 1/2 years in a Military MP company??" WTH does that mean?? It's obvious from your ramblings you were never an MP and "Forced" to sit through 100's of hours!! Why on earth would you have been forced to sit through 100's of hours IF YOU WERE NOT AN MP?? You make no sense... You must have been appointed permanent latrine boy because its obvious your mental condition would not have been compatible with having law enforcement powers.

Funny how you were in an MP company but never an MP, then state above, "No, I haven't actually ever seen a grand jury report, and am embarassed that someone is WAY better informed on this subject than me." Then have the pebbles to just ramble on about nothing and claim to know more than others. It's time to start waking up on the other side of the bed because the side you get up on is not working for you......

Priceless (anonymous profile)
June 29, 2013 at 6:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Precious, I really do feel sorry for you - once again you have no valid, factual argument so you have to resort to personal attacks against me.

I absolutely spent 3 1/2 years in an MP company. And I don't have to explain WHY, but it IS an absolute fact that I sat in on hundreds of hours of MP training - and I really don't give a crap if you (or anyone else) believe me or not.

(And if I wanted to be mean, I could say something like "if the PIO was ever in an MP Co., she was either the commander's "main squeeze" or the company whore", but I'm not going to do that.)

Now, would you like to get back to making excuses for the Sheriff, or do you just want to continue your little hissy fit over me?

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
June 29, 2013 at 7:19 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Just in from SBSO fulfilling my duties as the P I E I O,

Such language coming from an educated blabber mouth.

Don't feel sorry for me, I live in the real world not the conspiracy filled world you live in.

Must be rough waking up every morning reading these articles and having to control your emotional roller coaster of a life dealing with one conspiracy after another... Do you have a caregiver? I'm starting to get concerned for your well being normal people don't act like this. Please get help...

Priceless (anonymous profile)
June 29, 2013 at 6:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I just spotted Bill Brown in a panga boat with Elvis and Jimmy Hoffa's remains. Don't tell spiritwanker.

Validated (anonymous profile)
June 29, 2013 at 9:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)


Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 29, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

How bad can it be? After all, people are dying to get in there.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
June 30, 2013 at 1:47 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Anyone know of any Grand Jury recommendations that have been implemented? Ever?

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
June 30, 2013 at 8:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Attempting to communicate with a one track mind like Precious is almost as frustrating as watching the Sheriff squander his budget on things his department really doesn't need.

How about this Ms. PIO: Since the Sheriff has effectively gagged the "current coroner" (Sgt. Brown), why don't you trade offices with her? Then you could write stories about what a wonderful new working environment Sheriff Wonderful has given you "the opportunity to explore"!

We'l just see how many people think it "must not be that" bad" when Precious starts shreeking about the stench of dead bodies on a regular basis.

(Now folks, don't be surprised when Precious turns the conversation right back to my supposed mental problems! BTW, Precious, exactly what is it you think is wrong with me? Could you be specific? I mean, obviously I'm NOT the sort of psychopath that "successful" LEOs almost always are, but I'll take that as a compliment.)

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
June 30, 2013 at 11:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Oh, forgot to mention that I'd LOVE to see Bill Brown in a panga... with anyone he chooses (heck, as much as he likes attention, he should go boating with bigfoot!) - I want him to sail 50 or 100 miles out into the Pacific, then hang a left and head for Mexico - after he's lost at sea, then we won't have to listen to anymore nonsense about Mexicans coming up here in 25 ft. boats with a ton of weed.

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
June 30, 2013 at 1:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm confused spiritwanker, (Thanks Validated I'm LMAO!!)

Am I the "P I E I O", "Main Squeeze", "Company Whore" or Precious? Can you make up your pee sized brain for one damn minute. I'm getting a headache.

Who ever said I was for Billy Brown?? Oooh that's right, one track mind and hyperventilating conspiracy novelist spiritwanker. You see dude, you really need to get that head examined your embarrassing yourself.

Again, any grade school 5 year old would know the coroners office was built two Sheriffs earlier. Yet, you want to blame the guy in office today. Don't get me wrong, I'm not defending the current administration but place credit were credit is due nitwit.

Spiritwanker, I don't have to tell people about your "mental condition" your doing a great job of that yourself.....

Oh, and BTW, yes you are right about one thing and one thing only. The current Sheriff has placed a muzzle on Candidate Sandra Brown effectively keeping her from talking about SBSO business on duty... Vote for Candidate Sandra Brown for Sheriff.....

Put THAT in your pipe spiritwanker and smoke it!!!!!!

Priceless (anonymous profile)
June 30, 2013 at 4:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

There's also a third candidate in the race, Ryan Smith who deserves to be heard .

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 30, 2013 at 4:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Bad sign when you have to follow the circling vultures overhead to find the facility.

Draxor (anonymous profile)
June 30, 2013 at 4:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hotchkiss gets a lot of votes from that .. district.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 30, 2013 at 4:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Just hire local non-union contractors to design and rebuild the absolute cheapest thing that can pass certification. Last thing we need are another multi-million dollar monument to government waste and corruption.

SBLifer (anonymous profile)
June 30, 2013 at 7:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

OK so they follow your jackass plan and build the absolute cheapest thing that will pass certification then what? You're gonna complain because they built an ugly, inefficient building?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 30, 2013 at 8:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)


Forgive me if I seem a little confused but isn't that the issue with the GJR?? Wasn't this office built on "Cheap inmate labor" for under "$100,000 grand"?? That's almost like "local non-union contractors". Just say'in....

Oh, and I was wrong once, the coroners building was built three Sheriffs ago not two. Damn, I hate when that happens.....

Priceless (anonymous profile)
June 30, 2013 at 9:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

spiritwalker: I tried to post something like this days ago & it's in the ether. I don't work for any branch of government. I read the report, and I've never worked around dead anything, but I've worked a lot in smelly, toxic chemical environments that made people sick enough to cause nosebleeds and dizziness, etc, and the ventilation described must make it nearly intolerable to work in the coroner's office. It also makes it sound like an epidemiological nightmare, with no air filtration or containment possible, etc,etc. I know nothing about the coroner's office except for this report, but I'm sure Sandra Brown knows about grants for forensic science uses, since the coroner's office is apparently a discretionary budget item, unlike helicopters.
I found these NIJ grants that be used to fund staff, facilities, analytical instruments and lab supplies and have no idea whether this or anything similar is possible in SB.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
June 30, 2013 at 9:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Excellent points, 14noscams. I had no idea there are grants available for anything as unsexy as lab equipment.

Unfortunately, the grant process takes time - the wheels of government turn pretty slowly, and I think the Coroner's staff needs and deserves help NOW.

Since the Sheriff has the support of people with the means to donate "big ticket items", I suggest he take off his "Anti Panga Admiral of SB county" hat, and put on his "Let's build a Coroner's Office that doesn't make us look like bunch of Hillbillies" hat. Then he should throw a barbecue and invite all the big money types and tell 'em to bring their checkbooks. He should also invite local (real) contractors to "donate" their services - not every project has to be a big fat county contract.

I know this won't be the fabulous kind of photo op our Sheriff lives for, but if he puts half as much effort into it as maintaining his little air force, the Medical Examiner could have new digs by the end of the end of the year. (But that's only if he gives a 'Manhattan Project' effort to move it forward - the usual lip service will have staff working in squalor forever.)

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 1, 2013 at 8:43 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Vote for Ryan Smith. Or Mickey Mouse. Just not Bill Brown.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
July 1, 2013 at 8:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)


Since you are in the mood to spend other peoples money and asking the Sheriff to throw a BBQ and "invite all the big money types and tell 'em to bring their checkbooks" how much are you willing to give at the, "Let's build a Coroner's Office that doesn't make us look like bunch of Hillbillies" ball??

Priceless (anonymous profile)
July 1, 2013 at 10:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

You boys dance around the crux of the issue: CORRUPTION in this county is RAMPANT. Political posturing, trumped-up press conferences, and air-time. That's all it's about. Where's my next job? What office can I possibly win? Oh, wait, it's getting to uncomfy here in SB, so I'll start applying for gigs out of the area (Cam Sanchez).
If you want to have any impact upon the idiocy around us, stop arguing with each other (half of you clearly have waayy too much time on your hands) and express yourselves to the Regional Director of the FBI. They are the only ones with a hope of coming into SBCO and cleaning this dismal mess up...just as the feds came into California to do something about prison overcrowding (a direct result of local DA's like Dudley overcharging to generate guilty plea/convictions because we're "against crime" for purely political purposes). Like it or not, we live in a county that is truly a police state and not even the County Grand Jury has the clout to change things.

Beachgirl77 (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 9:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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