Who regulates Ill. cemeteries?

July 10, 2009 4:07:49 PM PDT
The Burr Oak cemetery case has many wondering who regulates cemeteries in Illinois. The answer is no one. The state comptroller's office oversees trust funds for those who pre-purchase plots and another type of trust to maintain cemeteries of the buried.

In the case of Burr Oaks, the comptroller's spokeswoman reports the cemetery has $1.8 in those funds and they appear to have been appropriately maintained. However, the grounds and actual manner of burial is not monitored by the state.

As questions swirl about the operation of Burr Oak cemetery, another family entrusts the suburban cemetery to respect their loved one in death.

Families count on an appropriate resting place once they've chosen a burial site. With charges against four Burr Oaks employees for dumping remains, that trust is broken.

"Anyone who has entrusted this cemetery with their loved ones really were entitled to the respect and the dignity they obviously have not gotten," said Anita Alvarez, Cook County state's attorney.

"The one thing we found out almost from the beginning is if you get your haircut, a barber is more highly regulated than the people who operate cemeteries. There is virtually no regulation whatsoever," said Tom Dart, Cook County sheriff.

Enforcement of moral and appropriate burial is rarely an issue, according to those in the industry.

Maynard Grossman is board member of the Illinois Cemetery and Funeral Home Association and is the executive director of two cemeteries.

"I'm just shocked that about this. I feel very bad for the families. It's just a terrible thing," said Maynard Grossman, Illinois Cemetery & Funeral Home Association.

At Randhill Park and Shalom Memorial Park Cemeteries, Grossman says their system makes it impossible to resell a plot that's in use. For example, a plot sold in 1964 can not have another person's information override their computer system.

Grossman says it is the responsibility of each cemetery director to do right.

"Forget about the money that's made or not made. It's how do you do that to the families. How do you desecrate a grave like that? That's the center of this whole thing," said Grossman.

The Illinois Cemetery and Funeral Home Association is considering action to maintain the dignity and respect the dead.

The comptroller's office is continuing the monitor Burr Oaks' trust funds.

While there is discussion about increasing regulation of the industry, some in the industry says there may not have been any regulation to prevent someone bent on criminal activity.


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