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Ken Bacha rolls toward fifth term as Westmoreland County coroner

Paul Peirce
| Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, 10:18 p.m.

Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha was headed to election to a fifth four-year term in a rematch Tuesday with former deputy coroner F. Christopher O'Leath, according to unofficial election returns.

Bacha, 56, of Greensburg, garnered 61 percent of the votes to 39 percent for O'Leath, 40, of New Kensington, with 87 percent of the county's precincts reporting.

“I'm very happy with the outcome and the major outpouring of support I received today to win another term,” Bacha said. “I'm really grateful.”

O'Leath, a Republican, has been a paramedic for 25 years and serves as assistant director of Freeport Emergency Medical Services. He made an unsuccessful bid to oust Bacha, a Democrat, in 2013.

O'Leath worked as a deputy coroner in Bacha's office but was fired in 2010 as a result of disciplinary issues. He subsequently filed a federal lawsuit against Bacha alleging wrongful termination that was dismissed by a federal judge in Pittsburgh in 2014.

Bacha was first elected coroner in 2001, succeeding his late father, Leo, who held the position for 24 years.

During his re-election campaign, Bacha noted the office's progression and the recent development of the county's own forensics center, an 18,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility in Hempfield.

The coroner's office investigated 2,763 cases last year. Of those, 174 were drug overdose deaths. During the campaign, Bacha defended his decision to order autopsies in all overdose deaths, while O'Leath contended less expensive toxicology tests were sufficient.

The position pays $67,504 a year.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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