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September 25, 2012

State funeral service board reviewing complaints against coroner

After paying fines ordered last summer by the Alabama Ethics Commission, Cullman County Coroner Steve Rodgers faces a challenge based on the same complaints from the Alabama Board of Funeral Service.

Rodgers, who owns Cullman Funeral Home, was the subject of a complaint in December 201l alleging that, while at the scene of a death in his role as coroner, he had responded to a family member that he owns a funeral home.

Rodgers’ attorney, Zeb Little of Cullman, said Rodgers was responding to a question at the scene. Alabama law prohibits any such discussion.

The ethics commission reviewed the complaint in June and declared it was a minor violation and would be addressed administratively. Rodgers paid fines of $1,000 for each complaint, which totaled $3,000, Little said.

“The complaints before the board of funeral service are the same issues that were addressed by the ethics commission. I’m hopeful the board will handle these same complaints the way the ethics commission did in the summer,” Little said.

Little also said the violations reviewed by the ethics commission were not intentional and resulted from Rodgers being unfamiliar with portions of the law.

“He responded to questions, but since that time he has an information sheet he can hand to anyone who asks about funeral home services. The sheet lists the funeral homes and how to contact them,” Little said. “Steve has an outstanding reputation. It’s a very competitive industry and the only thing keeping this alive is competitors.”

The Alabama Board of Funeral Service has power under state law to review complaints against a funeral director. The ethics commission reviewed the case because Rodgers is an elected office holder, Little said.

“These are the same allegations that were addressed by the ethics commission and they are civil matter. These complaints were fanned like a fire to make them seem much bigger than what they really are,” Little said.

Rodgers became coroner in January 2011 as a Republican candidate. He defeated Gary Murphree for the position.

* David Palmer may be contacted at dpalmer@cullmantimes.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 213.

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