A Niagara County coroner and the Cambria Volunteer Fire Co.’s chief both face a charge of obstructing governmental administration for mishandling remains from a recent fatal motor vehicle accident.
Russell Jackman, 45, of Wilson, who serves as the fourth district county coroner, and Vincent Salerno, 50, of Cambria, will be in Cambria Town Court on Tuesday to answer to the misdemeanor charge.
The employment status of Jackman is up in the air. However, coroners are generally on call 24 hours a day and there is a question as to what would happen if a coroner had to be summoned in Jackman’s district.
“At this point there has been no decision as to wether he takes calls,” said Niagara County Legislator Paul Wojtaszek, who chairs the legislature’s Community Safety & Security Committee. “It is in discussion.”
Wojtaszek said legislators haven’t had an opportunity to discuss the situation and added he was limited on what he could say because of legal issues.
“Obviously, when a county employee is alleged to have violated the public trust there’s always the possibility that action will be taken,” Wojtaszek said. “The most draconian would be termination.”
An attempt to reach Harold Wollaber II, president of the Cambria Fire Co., was unsuccessful. A message left on the answering machine at the fire hall was not returned.
According to the sheriff’s department, an investigation began following the exchange of human remains by Jackman to Salerno following an April 13 accident that occurred around 9:15 p.m. on Saunders Settlement Road at “Wasik’s Curve,” near the intersection with Campbell Boulevard.
The accident claimed the life of a Lockport man and injured four others. Both Jackman and Salerno responded to the scene serving in their official capacities.
Sheriff James R. Voutour said the Cambria fire company has a cadaver dog and the chief intended to use the remains to train the dog. He added that there was no intention of harm by either Jackman or Salerno.
“Unfortunately you can’t do that,” Voutour said. “It’s all supposed to go to the medical examiner.”
Jackman and Salerno were issued appearance tickets.
According to New York state penal law, a misdemeanor for obstructing governmental administration is charged when a person “intentionally obstructs, impairs or prevents the administration of law or other governmental function or prevents or attempts to prevent a public servant from performing an official function ...”
The charge is punishable by up to one year in jail if convicted.