Pulaski County Coroner Gary Carmack addressed the Pulaski County Commission Thursday morning to answer reports that he has not been answering calls for the coroner, flatly denying the claims.
Carmack told commissioners that he has only missed one call and that Linda Burgess, of the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department, had handled that call for him. The Daily Guide was on hand at the meeting and a Facebook Live video of it is available at www.facebook.com/WaynesvilleDailyGuide and specifically here.
Pulaski County Presiding Commissioner Gene Newkirk told Carmack that the county had been informed by some agencies, "three of them in particular and possibly a fourth one," that they couldn't "get ahold" of Carmack.
Newkirk said the commission had discussed whether cell service was an issue for Carmack and if he should need a land-line phone on Monday.
"Do you need anything or a phone or something where people can get a hold of you, that's what was said," Newkirk said.
Newkirk went on to say that the commission had received reports that bodies were laying in houses two to six hours.
Responding to Newkirk's statement about the length of time it has allegedly been taking Carmack to answer calls, Carmack said, "That is not true. The statement I want to make here is that the statements that were made here are unequivocally, adamantly, and I would say vociferously not true."
Carmack asked for documentation of the complaints and Newkirk provided it to him.
The commission told Carmack that Pulaski County Sheriff Jimmy Bench is the one who brought the problem to the commission in the first place.
Carmack said he had spoken to Bench sometime after Monday's commission meeting when the allegations were first made and that Bench told him that he didn't have a problem with Carmack.
According to Carmack, Bench said to him, "It's crazy Gary, they pulled me in there without any kind of notice."
Video of Bench's statements to the County Commission about this issue is available on the Daily Guide's Facebook page. There are three videos, one from the Monday meeting and another one from the Thursday meeting. Bench came into the Thursday meeting after Carmack left and the Daily Guide filmed that appearance as well.
Newkirk told Carmack he would like for him to have meetings with area chiefs of police to work out whatever their issues may be.
Zweerink said, "There's two sides to every story and we're not looking for trouble."
Carmack addressed one of the complaints, apparently from St. Robert Chief of Police Curtis Currenton, saying he didn't understand where that was coming from and that he had been on scene with Currenton during one call recently.
"I don't understand this. I don't know why he didn't come to me," Carmack said, going on to point to a friendship between himself, Currenton, and Currenton's wife Norie.
Newkirk suggested to Carmack that he go and view the video on the Daily Guide's Facebook page and see for himself exactly what was said about the situation by all parties involved.
"There's something wrong here. These people coming forward to us, they wouldn't come just to.. I don't know... but something's wrong," Zweerink said.
Carmack discussed a situation where he had trouble getting in touch with a particular detective in a case before going on to say that there's "no person alive who can just get there in five minutes." Carmack gave examples of times that he claims that he has had to wait for deputies or return phone calls.
Carmack said that he "has enemies" because he's been in politics a long time and some of his "enemies have close attachments to this particular department."
Zweerink said he believes that someone in this situation isn't being truthful and it wasn't his place to judge who that might be.
"I just want you guys to know that this is untrue and I'll tell anybody that, I'll take an oath, I'll take a lie detector test, anything it takes, the truth is the truth," Carmack.
"Just fix it," Zweerink said.
Newkirk asked Carmack about his cell reception again and asked him if he had a radio. Carmack said that he had a walkie and Newkirk suggested he go to his board and request a radio, as well as offering to lend his own to Carmack if he needs it.
The commission recommended again that Carmack have meetings with area law enforcement leaders and Carmack agreed that he needed to.
Responding to questions about Mike Shempert being appointed as a deputy coroner, Carmack said Shempert had to receive approval from the city of St. Robert because he is the current St. Robert Fire Chief before that could happen.
After Carmack left, Bench arrived at the meeting and commissioners informed Bench about what Carmack had said.
Bench said, "I'm good with it as long as, you know, you answer the calls."