BROOMFIELD, Colo. (KDVR) – The Adams County coroner who said Elijah McClain’s cause of death was “undetermined” will stop providing services to the City and County of Broomfield after some Broomfield council members publicly questioned how she handled McClain’s case.
“The majority of your Council expressed a clear lack of confidence in my Office, based solely on media reports, assumptions, and speculation,” Monica Broncucia-Jordan, the chief coroner for Adams and Broomfield counties, wrote in a Wednesday letter addressed to the mayor and Broomfield council members.
“I have elected not to renew the Broomfield Coroner services (intergovernmental agreement) for the year 2021,” she wrote.
Broncucia-Jordan’s contract, which was unanimously approved for renewal by the council last week, expires Jan. 1, 2021. She had provided coroner services in Broomfield since 2011, and the Adams County Coroner’s Office had provided services to Broomfield since 2002.
The 2021 contract was estimated to be $364,500 based on fees charged per autopsy.
“I want to personally acknowledge that the renewal of the intergovernmental agreement with your office (‘IGA’) was not handled properly and for that I want to apologize,” said Pat Quinn, the Broomfield mayor, in a response letter, sent Thursday, to Broncucia-Jordan.
Quinn said there would be no feasible way for Broomfield to replace the coroner’s services by her contract’s expiration date.
“My formal request is that you and your office agree to extend the contract for a period to be discussed with you and your staff, this week if possible,” he said in the letter.
On Dec. 10, council members discussed Broncucia-Jordan’s contract and expressed some concerns with how she interacted with law enforcement during the controversial investigation into McClain’s death. The coroner was not present at the council meeting and not available at that time to answer their questions.
McClain died after an altercation with police, in which they used the carotid control hold to cut off the blood supply to his brain, and after paramedics sedated him with ketamine.
Multiple investigations at the state, local and federal level are currently re-examining McClain’s death.
“There were some things that stood out that weren’t necessarily in line with – or at least had some question marks – regarding how things were handled,” said Deven Shaff, a council person who questioned whether the coroner had a conflict of interest in the McClain investigation.
Shaff also said he would like to ask the coroner whether the Aurora Police Department met with her prior to the autopsy’s completion. He also wondered why the coroner didn’t pursue a second opinion when she ruled McClain’s death to be undetermined and why no public inquest was established to help determine the cause of death.
“I realize there are multiple investigations going on in the death of Elijah McClain,” he said. “I didn’t expect to maybe get answers to all these questions but wanted to at least try to understand the situation better and understand her involvement and her office’s involvement in this case…I do have some concerns with how this was handled.”
Councilmember Jean Lim said she was also concerned about questions related to Broncucia-Jordan’s involvement in the McClain case and asked questions about “other alternatives” if council were to terminate the contract.
Councilmember Elizabeth Law-Evans said she understood the tragedy of McClain’s death but felt it was appropriate to move forward with the coroner’s contract.
“I appreciate council member Shaff carefully thinking about this and bringing it forward…I don’t think it’s Broomfield’s place to conduct yet another investigation or commentary on the situation,” she said.
Law-Evans called Shaff “kind and compassionate” for wanting to get to the bottom of the McClain death, but she pushed for the contract with Broncucia-Jordan to be approved.
“We do need a coroner unless we’re going to somehow prohibit dying in Broomfield – which sounds like an interesting idea – but I don’t know how to do that,” she said.
Law-Evans said it would be appropriate to consider alternative fiscal and operational ideas for the year 2022 and beyond.
In his letter to the coroner, Quinn said he believed someone from the City tried to reach out to her prior to the meeting, but “the timing was unfortunate, at best.”
He said the coroner’s office should have been afforded an opportunity to respond to the comments various council members made.
“Frankly, I was at a loss how to handle council’s comments so we went on with the unanimous vote and a note to follow up with you,” he said in his letter to Broncucia-Jordan.
According to Jim Siedlecki, a spokesperson for Adams County, Broncucia-Jordan is out of the office on a prescheduled holiday break but is due back in the office on Monday.
In her Wednesday letter, she said, “confidence in the coroner services provided to your community is of utmost importance and a necessary component of a continued arrangement.”