Windsor morgue faces state discipline and possible loss of licenses

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The state agency that oversees California’s funeral industry has taken disciplinary action against a Windsor morgue accused of holding unembalmed bodies for more than 24 hours without refrigeration and in an unapproved location.

The cemetery and funeral home is seeking to revoke the license of Conneely Family Cremation & Funeral Services and to revoke or suspend the license of Patrick Duffy Conneely, the funeral director.

The allegations cited in a nine-page indictment also include misrepresentation in obtaining a license, false and/or misleading advertising, and operating under more than one license at a single facility.

The case contains references to earlier warning letters accusing Conneely of negligence and unprofessional conduct.

The case was filed Jan. 19 by Gina Sanchez, chief of the bureau, a branch of the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs.

Duffy Conneely, 46, comes from a family that has been in the funeral business for five generations. It operates a morgue next to the Safeway store on South Brooks Road in Windsor.

“Conneely Family Cremation & Funeral Services vehemently denies ever holding an unembalmed deceased for more than 24 hours without refrigeration,” Robert Bone, a Santa Rosa attorney representing Conneely, said in a statement.

Bone shared documents with The Press Democrat that he said correctly explained the un-embalmed body that would be at issue in the state’s investigation. The documents showed a Conneely receipt log for an individual received at 1:15 p.m. on January 18, 2021, and a crematorium receipt log showing the individual was placed in the refrigerator at 1:00 p.m. the following day.

The articles provide “unqualified documentary evidence” that the Conneely morgue “has not and never has” violated the 24-hour limit imposed by state law, Bone said.

Conneely Mortuary in Windsor uses a Novato facility, Valley Memorial Park Cemetery & Funeral Home, for the storage and preparation of bodies for funeral services, according to a notice issued by the licensing office.

Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Cooper, who represents the office, said he could not comment on specific allegations about Conneely and his company.

The attorney general’s office does not discuss details of the ongoing litigation with anyone not involved in the case, he said.

The indictment, available on the office’s website, says that on or about January 19, 2021, a field office representative observed Conneely’s establishment doing business at a location on Bell Road in Windsor.

“The company was improperly storing bodies that were not embalmed or refrigerated. The Bureau had not approved this storage location,” the document said.

Cooper said he had been in contact with Bone, who originally requested three weeks to prepare for negotiations before the bureau’s requested administrative hearing.

A hearing would be scheduled about four months after both sides determined negotiations were unlikely to resolve the case, he said.

A proposed settlement is in Cooper’s hands, Bone said in an email Thursday, adding that he “hopes, based on my conversations with him, that the matter will ultimately be resolved without any license revocations.” .

Bureau complaints or investigations are “treated confidentially” and not discussed by the agency, Michelle Cave, a consumer affairs spokeswoman, said in an email.

The office governs 2,787 funeral directors and 1,092 funeral establishments and, since 2020, has issued 17 license revocations, she said.

California law states that licensed funeral homes and undertakers who hold unembalmed human remains for more than 24 hours “must chill the body in a licensed facility of sufficient capacity.”

Refrigerating a body below 40 degrees Fahrenheit slows but does not stop decomposition, industry sources say. A refrigerated body will last three to four weeks.

State law allows a funeral home to share a preparation or storage room with another facility upon approval from the office.

The state’s case against Conneely also cited two official warning letters sent to him in the past two years.

An April 2020 letter claimed he had “committed negligence” as funeral director at Windsor Healdsburg Mortuary by misspelling a deceased’s name and “failing to exercise adequate supervision and control. on the establishment”.

A July 2021 letter claimed he had “committed unprofessional conduct” at the same morgue by failing to finalize the facility’s address change request, doing business at the South Brooks Road location which was being used by another establishment and “engaging in misrepresentation and/or fraud” by charging unauthorized fees for late payment.

The prosecution also noted a citation in July 2021 that Conneely unlawfully operated Conneely Family Cremation & Funeral Services at a time when it was not licensed and imposed a $200 fine.

A separate subpoena issued October 13, 2021, based on an investigation by a representative of the office found that Windsor Healdsburg Mortuary and Conneely Family Cremation & Funeral Services were both illegally engaged in business as a funeral establishment at 9074 Brooks Road South.

He also alleged that Conneely misrepresented himself as a licensed individual owner of Windsor Healdsburg Mortuary, which was in fact owned and operated by a limited liability company, which is prohibited.

The citation also stated that the establishment had not obtained permission to share preparation and/or storage facilities with another licensed establishment after moving to the Brooks Road location, which is not permitted to provide on-site preparation or storage facilities.

An administrative penalty of $700 was imposed at a rate of $100 for each violation, and the citation included an order that Conneely “immediately take the necessary steps to comply fully” with state regulations.

You can contact editor Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @guykovner.

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