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Legal questions answered, Clayton Cobler still on unpaid job

By Staff
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON n Clayton Cobler,right, Lauderdale County medical examiner investigator, chose to follow in the footsteps of his father, Lauderdale County Coroner Marl Cobler, who learned the business from his father, a funeral director in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Photo by Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Jan. 8, 2001
Fourteen years after Lauderdale County officials raised legal questions about Clayton Cobler serving under the appointment and direction of his elected father coroner Marl C. Cobler the younger Cobler is still on the job and offering his services free of charge.
Cobler's appointment was apparently first cleared by a 1987 Mississippi attorney general's opinion saying elected or appointed officials may employ family members only if they are not to be paid with public funds.
According to archived records, Lauderdale County supervisors questioned the validity of Clayton Cobler's appointment in January 1987. After obtaining an opinion from then-Attorney General Edwin Lloyd Pittman specifically addressing his appointment, the board of supervisors voted unanimously to keep Cobler as a deputy coroner.
The move has the endorsement of current supervisor Jimmie Smith.
A 1992 opinion issued by Attorney General Mike Moore's office states a coroner cannot appoint his son as a deputy coroner since the deputy coroner would be entitled to fees from public funding.
Clayton Cobler and his father said they are within the limits of the 1972 Mississippi nepotism law, on which Moore's opinion is based. The law states "it is unlawful for an officer such as the coroner to appoint a person related within the third degree as… a deputy or assistant to be paid from public funds."
Clayton Cobler was last certified by the state medical examiner's office in 1999, the same year he was last sworn into office by the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors.
The younger Cobler, who also serves as director of Metro Ambulance, said because neither he nor Lewis are paid with county funds, they are not required to maintain a separate records office. When Clayton Cobler and Lewis are called to investigate a death, they submit a report to Marl Cobler, who in turn issues a death certificate, Marl Cobler said.
Marl Cobler, who has suffered a recent illness, said there is a possibility he might not run for office again. His son said he may be interested in filling his father's shoes.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at mtodd@themeridianstar.com.

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