Mann goes public on issue with deputy coroner

It was not the usual type of topic to surface during the public comments portion of a meeting of the Coweta County Commission. But that was the venue chosen by county resident Judy Mann on who used the occasion on Sept. 8 to call into question the demeanor of Coweta County Deputy Coroner Della Dean in a conversation she had with Mann at Piedmont Newnan Hospital after the death of Mann’s husband. Mann said she requested but received no apology from Coroner Ray Yeager. For his part, Yeager said he empathized with Mann on the loss of her husband but stood by Dean, citing her work ethic and her history of compassion for families at the loss of a loved one.

Judy Mann, whose husband Alton died earlier this year, addressed county commissioners during the public comments portion of the Sept. 8 meeting. Mann said the reason for her comments pertained to the treatment she received from Deputy Coroner Della Dean while she and her family were in the emergency room area of Piedmont Newnan Hospital on the day her husband died.

Mann maintained that during the conversation with Dean, the deputy coroner was “rude, crude and abrasive” and displayed no compassion and no respect when conversing with her. Mann also said Dean began talking about issues such as any medications her husband had been taking or if he had been drinking and did so within earshot of others standing nearby. That type of questioning involves privileged information and should not be done in public, Mann said.

“I know the difference between questioning and interrogating. And that was an interrogation,” Mann said of the manner of Dean’s questions. “Can an elected county official or a representative talk any way they want? A wrong had been done and it needs to be righted.”

Subsequent to her conversation with Dean, Mann said she spoke with Coroner Ray Yeager about the treatment she received, adding that she wanted Dean to be reprimanded. Mann said that Yeager indicated he would do so, adding that she never received any confirmation that a reprimand had occurred.

Mann said she later received a letter from Yeager expressing a deep regret over the loss of her husband, “but there was no apology stated.”
“If he had required her to apologize it would have all been over,” Mann said outside the commission chambers following her remarks.

Yeager on Wednesday said he and Mann had spoken and that he had apologized for any inconvenience and negative perceptions that had arisen as a result of Dean’s conversation with her.

But as for Dean’s conduct, Yeager said that the deputy coroner during her interaction with Mann had followed state-established protocols. Noting the few hundreds deaths that occur in Coweta County each year and Dean’s work with his office since early 2010, Mann is “the first person seeking something,” Yeager said.

Yeager also said that the conversation between Dean and Mann could have been moved to another location in the hospital if Mann had let Dean know she was uncomfortable.

“I honestly don’t know what she’s seeking unless it deals with the loss of a loved one,” Yeager said, speaking highly of the work of his deputy coroner and the large number of cards and comments he has received relating to her work. “I’ve apologized for my office in person, for any inconvenience or negative perception, but not for Della having done anything wrong and I’m not apologizing for Della’s actions. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt how Della handled herself. As far as I’m concerned I’m done with this matter.”

When asked about the impasse, both Mann and Yeager noted that they had known each other for a number of years. Both spoke pleasantly, even complimentarily, about the other. But when it comes to this topic, the two seem to be at an impasse for which there is no apparent resolution.