Beaufort News

Beaufort County coroner refuses to release state official's autopsy

CHARLESTON -- The Beaufort County Coroner's Office, in apparent violation of the state's open records law, denied a request Thursday for the autopsy report of a state official who died in Beaufort on Aug. 27.

On Wednesday, The (Charleston) Post and Courier requested a copy of the autopsy report for Thomas Bardin Jr., the former Legislative Audit Council director. Janet Horton, the coroner's administrative assistant, said Bardin died of natural causes but declined to elaborate.

The newspaper submitted a written request late Wednesday.

In a follow-up phone call Thursday, Coroner Ed Allen said, "We do not release autopsy reports except to families. ... We have never released them to the press."

When told the newspaper has received copies of autopsy reports from other counties, Allen said: "I don't care about what other South Carolina counties do."

Jay Bender, an attorney for the S.C. Press Association, said reports produced by coroners are public records.

Bender is litigating a case involving the coroner of Sumter County, who said in July he cannot release autopsy reports because doing so would violate medical privacy laws.

Bardin, a Columbia resident, died in his hometown of Beaufort following a routine morning run. He was rushed from a Beaufort house to Beaufort Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The autopsy was performed

at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Bardin was appointed director of the Legislative Audit Council, which audits state operations, in 2009. He held state government jobs for more than three decades.