Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkleoverhauled the medical examiner’s office today as she seeks to move past troubles at the county morgue.
Medical Examiner Nancy Jones is resigning, effective July 31. Kimberly Jackson, the office’s top administrator, is leaving July 13, Preckwinkle said.
Preckwinkle praised the service of Jones and did not directly answer questions about whether Jones was asked to resign. “Dr. Jones chose to retire July 31,” Preckwinkle said, going no further in her explanation.
“Dr. Jones has a wealth of institutional knowledge, and we will rely on her expertise to help the county make a successful transition to the new management team,” Preckwinkle added. “We thank Dr. Jones for her 26 years of dedicated experience. She’s considered a top professional in her field, and the county has benefited immensely from her medical expertise for a quarter of a century.”
A national search for Jones’ replacement will be started today, Preckwinkle said.
Kimberly Jackson, Preckwinkle added, will be replaced by Daryl Jackson, who is no relation. “We believed that we needed stronger management and her departure and the hire of Darryl Jackson reflects that concern,” Preckwinkle said, when asked if Kimberly Jackson was asked to resign.
The changes come in the wake of problems at the morgue, which falls under the purview of the medical examiner, the county’s chief forensic pathologist.
In January, Jones came under criticism for a backup of bodies in the morgue cooler. Preckwinkle aides found that 363 bodies were stored in a cooler designed to hold 300. The county blamed that mostly on the state suspended funding for indigent burials.
Robin Kelly, the county’s chief administrative officer, said there were other problems in the office. They included a staff shortage and workers who “weren’t doing their jobs,” Kelly said.
Since January, four employees of the medical examiner have been fired, and eight vacant positions have been filled, Kelly said.
The changes also come as Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard is completing a review of morgue operations that began in January. A public report is expected at the completion of that review, Blanchard said today.
Other changes include the development of an electronic case management system, a new electronic worker time-keeping system to be rolled out July 1 and tighter security and safety measures, Preckwinkle said.
Meanwhile, state funding for indigent burials has been restored. As of June 2, there were 234 bodies and 56 fetuses at the morgue, officials said.
Jones might help train graduate students at the office after her resignation takes effect. What that would involve, and how much it would pay, are have yet to be determined, Preckwinkle said. “We’re trying to figure out how that would work,” she said.