Wallem Outlines His Platform For Coroner

(File Photo)

(Gillette, Wyo.) Paul Wallem had an interest in serving the community through the coroner’s office long before he decided to run for the position in the upcoming election.

Wallem learned what the coroner’s office does from former coroner Tom Eekhoff, and it was through this connection he said he began to see the valuable role the office plays.

“I didn’t realize just how much the coroner did for the community,” Wallem recalled.

Eekhoff had mentioned the need for deputies, so Wallem began to volunteer his time in the office. He later become a paid, part-time employee and has served as deputy coroner for a total of three years.

During that time, he acquired an active certificate in death investigation from the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy.

He came to Gillette from Sheridan 12 years ago, and eventually channeled his degree in communications into a position at Basin Radio Network, where he serves as news director.

All this background, he said, makes him a good candidate for the coroner’s position.

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“I think I have a good mix of experience and communications skills,” Wallem said.

In his work as a reporter, he said he’s cultivated positive relationships with law enforcement, and city and county officials—the people the coroner’s office works with every day.

Wallem has a four-point platform outlining his vision for the coroner’s office.

First, he wants to ensure fiscal responsibility and transparency.

Secondly, he wants to improve policies related to confidentiality. In the course of a death investigation, Wallem said, a lot of personal information about the deceased and their loved ones comes out.

For the dignity of the deceased and their families, he wants to see this information is protected, even beyond procedures required by HIPPA privacy laws.

This means he would restrict the autopsy room to law enforcement and pathologists. In some cases admittance would be extended to attorneys, as well as medical students, with the family’s permission.

While HIPAA laws ensure a lot of privacy, when this access is granted, Wallem said he would request confidentiality agreements be signed to protect personal information.

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His third point would be to improve investigative policies. He said it’s important to ensure photographs of the body and death scene in every investigation. He also wants photographs of the body at the morgue to be standard procedure.

“There can be no excuse for not doing this every time,” Wallem said.

He also wants measurements of the scene documented in every investigation, including diagrams and other relevant information to the case.

He said he would implement checklists and sign-off sheets to ensure these procedures are followed consistently.

His last point is to ensure proper filing of office paperwork and other clerical procedures are followed consistently.

Wallem said his platform will be posted and elaborated upon on his campaign Facebook page. Anyone with further questions about his candidacy for coroner, he said, can contact him there.

Wallem is running against incumbent Laura Sundstrom, Samantha Lang, and Kevin McGrath.

Originally from New Mexico, Killough began his career writing freelance for a weekly magazine in Albuquerque while completing his undergraduate degree. In addition to reporting on uranium mining in western New Mexico, he spent three years reporting in western North Dakota during the height of the oil boom. He can be reached at kevin@county17.com or 701-641-6603.