March 1, 1996 in Nation/World

Commission Fears For Amend Coroner’s Office May Be Moved Because Of Threats Against Him

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane County Coroner Dexter Amend’s office may be moved to a building with a metal detector because of threats on his life.

“There’s potential out there for harm to the doctor,” said county Commissioner Steve Hasson.

Moving Amend’s office to the county courthouse, where entrances have metal detectors, would ensure everyone visiting the coroner is screened for weapons, Hasson said.

Hasson isn’t sure exactly when Amend might make the move. His current office is less than a block from the courthouse.

“The commission is more worried about it than him,” Hasson said.

Commissioners wouldn’t elaborate on the threats against Amend, who is under fire for angering grieving families with comments they say were inappropriate and callous.

Commissioners discussed the move Thursday in a secret meeting to warn Amend they may bail out on him if he keeps racking up claims and lawsuits.

The Washington State Risk Pool, which insures Spokane County, told commissioners Wednesday it might not cover losses incurred by the county through Amend’s actions.

Amend may have acted outside the scope of his job in some of the complaints against him, the insurer said. Details about those concerns weren’t available Thursday.

The county has already spent nearly $45,000 defending Amend against claims, lawsuits and a recall effort by citizens.

“No elected official has ever racked up that number of claims in that kind of time frame,” Hasson said.

Most claims were filed by families upset by the way Amend handled a relative’s death.

Most recently, a $100,000 claim was filed against the coroner by 13-year-old Bryan Himes, who Amend questioned after a younger brother died in a fire in January.

According to the claim, Himes has suffered severe emotional distress.

The coroner asked the teenager if his brother was masturbating and if he had been having sex with other boys at the time of his death, the claim said.

Amend, whose two sons accompanied him to Thursday’s meeting for moral support, said the session was “profitable.” He refused to comment further.

Commissioners John Roskelley and Phil Harris also refused to comment.

Hasson said he fears Amend doesn’t realize how serious the legal situation is.

“I’m worried that I haven’t connected well with him,” Hasson said. “He said, ‘I certainly haven’t killed anyone or anything.’ ”

Commissioners will probably vote on whether to make Amend responsible for his own legal losses, Hasson said.

If commissioners take that action, county attorneys will still represent him in court but the county won’t pay any judgments against him.

“If the courts find wrongdoing, then the taxpayer is off the hook,” Hasson said.

“If push comes to shove, I’m going to represent the taxpayers before I’m going to represent Dexter Amend.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color photos

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