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State agency cannot take action against Newton coroner
Georgia Coroners Council official says it has no jurisdiction over actions made before she completed training this month
Bailey-Butts at BOC
Coroner Dorothea Bailey-Butts speaks to the Newton County Board of Commissioners Jan. 19 at the Historic Courthouse. - photo by Tom Spigolon

The head of a state coroners training agency says it has no jurisdiction to take action on any complaints detailed in a county official’s petition seeking the Newton coroner’s ouster.

Richard Stanley, chairman of the Georgia Coroners Training Council, said the Council on Tuesday, Feb. 24, was “advised by the attorney general’s office that we can’t do anything at this time” about complaints included in a Jan. 29 petition to the Council that sought Coroner Dorothea Bailey-Butts’ removal from office. 

The events listed in the petition by County Manager Lloyd Kerr occurred before she completed training earlier this month, Stanley said.

“The things that happened there in January, before she went to school, we have no jurisdiction over at this time,” Stanley said. 

“By the time she finished school and got out of her class in Forsyth, from that point forward, anything that comes in we can deal with,” he said.

Bailey-Butts completed her first state training class in Forsyth Feb. 13, her attorney said.

Stanley added that the Council was “waiting to see” if any other action is required on new complaints since she completed her training class.

Shawn Conroy, spokesperson for Attorney General Chris Carr, said he was unable to provide more information on the advice his office gave the Council.

The attorney general’s office represents the Training Council and other state agencies in legal matters.

“Any legal advice given to the council or the council members is protected from release by attorney-client privilege,” Conroy said.

Stanley has said the Council only had the power to remove Bailey-Butts’ certification — which was only gained through training from the state government.

Any action on her removal would require the governor to initiate an investigation, leading to a hearing before a Superior Court judge who would have the ultimate power to remove her.

Bailey-Butts’ attorney, Wayne Kendall, said he was not surprised because it “really didn’t make sense” that she should be disciplined for actions she took before she was properly trained.

“All this uproar is uproar for nothing,” he said.

Kendall said he likely will be contacting the county attorney this week to request the petition be withdrawn.

A county spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment today. However, the county government has a policy of its officials not commenting on pending litigation.

Kerr’s petition to the Coroners Training Council sought an emergency injunction to prevent Bailey-Butts from continuing in the elected position "effective immediately."

The allegations against her included refusing to transport a body from a fatal wreck on Georgia Hwy. 212 last month despite its requirement in state law.

She also possibly destroyed evidence and mishandled the body of a suicide victim; and left a deceased hotel patron in plain view of other guests and employees, according to the petition.

Additional allegations range from possibly being mentally unstable; to telling county commissioners she had damaging information to coerce them to approve more money for her office.

Bailey-Butts recently asked county officials to pay for her attorney.