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New Times / News

The following article was posted on July 2nd, 2009, in the New Times - Volume 23, Issue 48 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 23, Issue 48

Grand jury points finger at county cemeteries

BY COLIN RIGLEY

Maybe some of SLO County’s cemeteries are run too casually, according to a report by the county grand jury. Poor records, decaying gravestones, and even gopher problems are among problems facing a few local cemeteries.

Of the problems discovered at several of the county’s 11 cemetery districts, the most prominent was poor record keeping or, in some cases, a complete lack of burial records.

“The issue is: Can all the records slip through the crack and suddenly people don’t know where their relatives are buried?” outgoing grand jury foreperson Brandt 
Kehoe said.

During their investigation grand jurors could not find a burial register at the Estrella-Pleasant Valley, Santa Margarita, and Templeton districts. They also reported that older graves at the Adelaida district were never recorded. In other words, the cemeteries did not have full records of who is buried and where.

“You’ve got to keep track of where the bodies are buried and also what lots are owned and things of that sort,” Kehoe said. “So it’s really a concern about the long-term integrity of the governance.”

There were other issues that sound endemic of small, country cemeteries. At the Adelaida district, according to the report, a gopher was suspected of unearthing a human finger bone and wedding ring.

The majority of cemeteries scored well, but the districts that were dinged by the grand jury generally were not meeting state laws governing cemetery districts. The report states the Estrella-Pleasant Valley and Templeton districts don’t have the minimum of three board members; board members at Adelaida and Estrella-Pleasant Valley don’t meet quarterly as they’re supposed to, and the districts don’t carry liability insurance.

But some of the requirements are unnecessary, Adelaida director and manager Nancyann Dubost countered. Take liability insurance, for example: The district is all volunteer run. “Why would anybody want to sue us? We don’t have any money,” she said.

Dubost added that the board only meets when there’s a reason because the district generally has just a few burials per year. As for the gopher digging up human remains, she laughed and said it was “absurd.”

“That was no human bone. It was never identified as a human bone.”

The source of the wedding ring, however, remains a mystery.