Whitesburg KY
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New coroner will be picked by judge

Letcher Judge/Executive Jim Ward says it will be several days at least before he names a replacement for former Coroner John Cornett, who was forced to resign last week.

“I just feel like the water situation is a lot higher priority at this time,” said Ward. “With all of this going on I put that on the back burner. We have bigger things going on.”

A “non-consumption water advisory” was issued earlier this week preventing customers of the Whitesburg Municipal Water System from using water for anything other than flushing commodes after some customers reported smelling gasoline in their water and petroleum products were found seeping into the North Fork of the Kentucky

Ward said that after the water advisory is lifted he will begin the process of deciding whom to pick as the new coroner. Several people asked about filling the vacancy, he said.

Cornett pleaded guilty in Letcher Circuit Court last week to seven counts of unlawfully obtaining a prescription for a controlled substance by fraud, commonly known as “doctor shopping,” according to Shelley Catharine Johnson, deputy communications director in the Attorney General’s office. As part of the plea, Cornett presented his resignation to Ward on Feb. 13.

Cornett’s wife, Andrea, a former nurse at Whitesburg Appalachian Regional Hospital, also pleaded guilty to four counts of theft of a con trolled substance.

The Cornetts were indicted in November of 2008 after a joint investigation by Kentucky State Police and the Office of the Attorney General’s Department of Criminal Investigations.

Letcher Circuit Court Judge Sam Wright sentenced Cornett and his wife to supervised pretrial diversion for three years with both agreeing to undergo a drug/alcohol assessment and possible drug treatment program. The Cornetts must remain drug and alcohol free during the diversion program and are subject to random testing.

As part of his plea deal, John Cornett also agreed not to seek the office of coroner during the period of his pre-trial diversion.

The Cornetts each must pay a fee of $15 per month to the Department of Probation and Parole, which will conduct home visits. The Cornetts cannot possess a firearm during the period of the diversion agreement.

Neither Cornett nor his attorney, James W. Craft II of Whitesburg, could be reached for comment concerning the guilty pleas despite repeated phone calls to each.

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