South Charlotte

Coroner's pay quest stalled?

York County Coroner Doug McKown won't say whether he'll continue pressing the county for back pay after he leaves his job next month.

Last month, McKown said the county should pay him for the nearly two years he was suspended from office while awaiting trial on drug charges.

McKown didn't rule out going after his back pay last week, but said the issue isn't a priority.

“Right now, I haven't really pursued anything in addition to” the initial request, he said. “That's the least of my concerns right now.”

York County officials have said they don't plan to give McKown back pay. County Manager Jim Baker said Wednesday that despite his public statements, McKown has never made a formal written request for back pay.

McKown, 39, announced Tuesday that he will step down from the coroner's post Aug. 13.

After a two-year suspension, he had been back in office less than two months when he was arrested last week on a probation violation charge. That arrest came a day after McKown was cited in North Carolina for driving while drinking and an open container violation.

Lincoln County, N.C., authorities say McKown was drinking beer that night, driving a York County vehicle and traveling with a man suspected of smoking crack.

McKown admits there was beer in the vehicle – the reason he cited for his resignation – but he says he wasn't drinking and didn't know his friend had opened a beer until a deputy pulled them over.

Gov. Mark Sanford suspended McKown in 2006 after the coroner was indicted on felony cocaine charges. McKown was acquitted of those charges in May and returned to office last month.

McKown didn't waste time announcing that he wanted the county to pay him for the time he missed. He would have earned $115,223.40 if he had continued to receive a paycheck during his suspension, according to county records.

“It's plain and simple,” McKown told The Herald last month before leaving for a job interview in Las Vegas. “I never should've been removed from office. I never should've lost a day's pay. I never should've lost a day's benefit. And I just want what I'm entitled to.”

McKown was much more subdued Wednesday after faxing his letter of resignation to the governor's office.

“I couldn't tell you right now anything to do with that,” he said of back pay. “I'm not really even concerned with it right now.”

It's unclear who will replace McKown after he leaves. He expects chief deputy coroner David Chambers to run the office until his term expires around the end of the year.

But Sanford's spokesman, Joel Sawyer, said the governor hasn't decided if Chambers or former coroner Sabrina Gast will head the office. Sanford appointed Gast to the post after McKown's suspension in 2006.

Gast, who left office when McKown returned, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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