Oshkosh Examiner photo
The Winnebago County Coroner's Office operates from a suite in the basement of the Orrin H. King Building.
The recently surfaced accusations against Winnebago County Coroner Barry Busby of sexual harassment are not the first time that these kinds of charges have been made against the highly popular official.
In 2012 the county took steps to keep Busby from meeting in person with a female deputy coroner who said that she had received unwanted sexual advances. “The few years that I have had to put up with you grabbing my ass and making sexual comments repeatedly have made it almost impossible for me to even want to continue with this job,” said Donna L. Francart in an Oct. 24, 2011, email to Busby.
The next day Francart, who worked weekends as a deputy coroner, wrote to Peg Raugh, the county’s human resources manager. “I desperately need to talk to you regarding a situation that I’ve been enduring for a couple of years,” she wrote. Francart added that she was unable to go to her full-time job that day “because I’m physically ill from the stress & afraid.”
Francart, who was later fired from the coroner’s office, was a divorced mother of two sons who worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. In her complaints to county officials, she described how Busby would visit her when she was off duty from the county and working at private employers, in one case a travel agency and in another case a funeral home.
“The fact that you came to my place of employment and sat there for a half hour facing me while I had clients at my desk was very unnerving,” Francart wrote in the 2011 email to Busby. “It continues to amaze me that you would feel that you have the right to touch me or talk to me like that.”
The county investigation was unable to substantiate the claim of sexual harassment, which Busby denied. But officials were apparently concerned enough about the situation that they set up a dropbox at the Neenah Police Department so that Francart and Busby could exchange paperwork without meeting face to face, according to a letter from the county’s outside law firm, Godfrey & Kahn.
Busby declined to comment for this article and referred questions about Francart’s later dismissal to the county’s personnel office.
In a letter dated Jan. 30, 2012, county officials told Busby that they “were unable to find that you discriminated against Ms. Francart on the basis of her gender or any other protected class.” But they also said they had concluded “that the complainant acted in good faith” and warned Busby against retaliating.
In a separate letter to Francart, also dated Jan. 30, 2012, the investigators identified eight specific allegations of harassment by the deputy coroner against her boss, ranging from touching to inappropriate comments to veiled requests for sex.
In one case, Francart told county staffers, Busby reacted to the death of an elderly woman who died after falling while getting dressed. “That’s the problem,” Busby is quoted as saying. “Women are always trying to put their pants on when they should be taking them off.”