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Rutland set to be named coroner

Newfane funeral director Richard W. Rutland is expected to be confirmed by the Niagara County Legislature next week as the next District 4 coroner.

He would replace Russell Jackman II of Wilson, who resigned April 30 after being charged with giving part of the body of a man killed in a car crash to Cambria Fire Chief Vincent Salerno to be used in training a search-and-rescue dog. Both men pleaded guilty May 1 to obstructing governmental administration and were given conditional discharges.

County Legislator Paul B. Wojtaszek said Tuesday that Rutland was the consensus choice of the Community Safety and Security Committee, which interviewed five candidates Friday.

Wojtaszek, R-North Tonawanda, chairman of the committee, said Rutland's experience and willingness to run for the three-year remainder of Jackman's unexpired term in this fall's election were key factors in his selection.

Rutland, 51, a Republican, owns Rutland-Corwin Funeral Home.

"He's got a background, 30 years as a funeral director. He's active in the community. [District 3 coroner] Ken Lederhouse indicated he's done [body] removals," Wojtaszek said.

The appointment is only good until the end of this year.

About 20 people applied for the coroner post. The others interviewed were Stephen Horning of Barker, a member of the 107th Airlift Wing; Gerald Frazier II, a Niagara Falls firefighter who lost to Jackman in last year's election; Kyle Hennicke, a Sanborn nurse; and Cynthia Baker of Youngstown, a former mortuary worker.

Coroners don't have to live in the district they represent, but Rutland does. Wojtaszek said that was his preference all along.

District 4 includes Cambria, Lewiston, Newfane, the Town of Niagara, Porter and Wilson. The county has four part-time coroners, each paid $17,500 a year.

Rutland was chief of the Miller Hose Fire Company in Newfane from 1991 to 1993. His wife, Laura Rutland, is a Newfane town councilwoman.

Also Tuesday, the county's new Medicaid fraud investigator started work. Leo C. Butera, 50, of Wheatfield, is being paid $78,320 a year in the position, whose official title is special assistant for Medicaid provider fraud.

Butera was chosen by the Legislature on May 15 to succeed Robert M. Restaino, who resigned to run for a seat in the Assembly.

Butera is an attorney, but Wojtaszek said Butera's business background -- he was formerly general counsel for Charlestowne Floors of Amherst -- was a strong reason for his selection.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com