Mendocino County supervisor to sue county over home burial permit

Mendocino County Supervisor Dan Hamburg said Tuesday he intends to sue the county he serves, seeking to overturn its decision to deny his family a permit to bury his wife on their rural property.

In a brief interview, Hamburg said he made no secret of the fact that his late wife was buried on their property after her death in March.

Hamburg said he filed paperwork with the county's health department specifically stating Carrie Hamburg had been buried at their Boonville Road home, in keeping with her long-held wishes and the explicit instructions outlined in a codicil to her will signed a week before her March 5 death.

But in a sign she anticipated the legal questions it would raise, Carrie Hamburg demanded her family bury her before attempting to resolve any objections, according to the Feb. 26 document.

Hamburg and his family also knew, even as they filed an application for county approval of the home burial plan, that it would be rejected, Empire Mortuary Services owner George Leinen said.

Leinen said he agreed to help process Carrie Hamburg's death certificate and the permit application for the disposition of her remains because his mortuary has access to the California Electronic Death Registry System, which makes it difficult for most civilians to process such paperwork without assistance.

"The rejection of this permit was always expected," Leinen said. "It was our understanding that following the rejection ... the family would seek relief through a court."

Interim Public Health Officer Craig McMillan said his office doesn't have the power to authorize home burial "for the simple reason that, even if we did, we would be countermanded anyway."

Their statements came amid spreading debate over a criminal investigation by the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office into the disposition of Carrie Hamburg's remains.

California is one of just two U.S. states that prohibit burials outside of cemeteries. Violations are a misdemeanor under the California Health and Safety Code, Sheriff Tom Allman said.

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