Our view: Coroner's office can't run on convenience

Published: Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Becoming a public official can be a difficult transition for some, particularly with the “public” portion of that title.

The public – i.e. taxpayers, voters, etc. – can be demanding. But the public also pays public officials’ salaries and the salaries of each and every staff member, and public officials should expect the public to hold them accountable for all aspects of their jobs.

Communicating pertinent information to the public in a timely fashion is an important part of every public official’s job.

Because public officials can’t possibly meet with each member of their constituency on an individual basis, one means of communicating important public messages is through the news media. Most individuals count on news reports to keep up to date on matters of public importance.

The transition to “public” official has been difficult so far for new McHenry County Coroner Anne Majewski.

In an unfortunate email sent late last month to the Northwest Herald and all northwest suburban and Chicago-area media outlets, Majewski demonstrated that she doesn’t understand the “public” part of her job.

“Please do not call after the office closes at 4:30 pm as it generates overtime which costs the taxpayers unnecessary money. Any and all press releases will be done during normal business hours unless I deem otherwise necessary. Thank you for this consideration! Anne L. Majewski M.D.”

Unfortunately, significant community events – homicides, fatal car accidents, drug overdoses, etc. – don’t always conveniently occur between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday (or Tuesday through Friday during holiday weeks such as last week).

And community members should not have to wait until Monday – or Tuesday during a holiday week – to learn important public details about a tragic public death that occurred, say, on a Friday night, just because that is more convenient to a public official such as the coroner.

Under the past coroner’s administration, deputy coroners, all of whom are experienced professionals, were allowed to speak to the media and offer basic details and appropriate comments about death investigations, including after hours.

But Majewski, who earns a salary of $104,750, has decided not to allow her deputies to speak to the media under any circumstances. That’s her prerogative, but if that’s the case, she’ll need to find a way to handle communicating during off hours.

The public has a right to receive pertinent public information in a timely fashion.

So far, Majewski is not meeting expectations on that very basic part of her job.

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