Brown County Coroner Dr. Judith Varnau testifies Thursday in Brown County Common Pleas Court. Lisa Hutson/FOX19
Retired Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge John Kessler will decide if Brown County Coroner Dr. Judith Varnau can remain in office. Lisa Hutson/FOX19
GEORGETOWN, OH (FOX19) -
A visiting judge will determine if the Brown County coroner will keep her job by next week.
Thursday marked day two of a civil trial in Brown County Common Pleas Court that could potentially oust Dr. Judith Varnau from her elected position.
Four families have come forward with concerns about Varnau. Family members are saying she botched the death investigations of their loved ones. A petition fire the coroner got more than 2,300 signatures triggering an official complaint to remove her from office.
Both sides rested their cases Thursday afternoon.
The petitioners' attorney said all of this boils down to a personal feud and Brown County residents are the ones suffering.
"I think it is ridiculous that we can't be allowed to do our job," said Brown County Chief Deputy Sheriff John Schadel.
The feud between the Brown County Sheriff's Office and the coroner came out in court. Sheriff Dwayne Wenninger took the stand testifying to avoiding contact with Varnau. He admitted to not giving her his cell phone number because of the conflicts with her husband who has filed multiple lawsuits against him.
"I referred everything to the chief deputy because of the history with the family before. I thought it was proper to hand it over to the chief deputy, put him in charge and let him take care of the issue," Wenninger said.
Varnau's husband ran unsuccessfully against the sheriff in 2008 but the coroner said that had nothing to do with her complicated relationship with the department.
"I have no problem with him being sheriff," Varnau said.
As for the 2,300 residents who signed the petition to get the coroner out, her attorney told the court they should have voted for someone else.
"If they don't like it, there is another election. That is where you fix it," attorney Thomas Eagle said.
Retired Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge John Kessler heard the case.