Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Barry Busby makes his resignation official; Gov. Evers to appoint replacement to serve as county coroner

Winnebago County Coroner Barry Busby announces his resignation to the Board of Supervisors.

By Miles Maguire
Winnebago County Coroner Barry L. Busby submitted his resignation in writing to Sheriff John Matz Wednesday morning.

Busby announced Tuesday evening at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors that he was retiring as of Oct. 31, but there had been some concern expressed that he made the announcement to head off a censure vote and would not follow through.

Before announcing his resignation, Busby made an impassioned speech about his work as a coroner and noted his own struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, which appeared to have won him some sympathy among listeners.

County Executive Mark Harris responded by urging the censure vote to go forward. "I must point out that that is not official or irrevocable until he submits it in writing to the sheriff and at any point prior to that he could change his mind," Harris said.

The censure and no confidence resolution was adopted 29-1 with five abstentions.

Matz notified the governor and county officials of Busby's resignation.

Under state law it is now the responsibility of Gov. Tony Evers to appoint a coroner to fill out Busby's term. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"He will probably ask for applications, and I assume he will approach the sheriff and me to see if we have any thoughts" about who should take the coroner's post, Harris said in an interview.

The appointment could extend for the rest of Busby's term, which ends in 2022, or to an earlier date linked to a special election, Harris said. 

Busby will likely end up being the county's last elected coroner. An option under state law is to have a medical examiner instead. 

Bill Wingren, chair of the county's Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, said the panel "will investigate the process of changing over." Harris went further, saying he is "quite confident the board will switch the position to a hired position that will be accountable to the county executive."

Medical examiners typically have more training than coroners, but they also typically get paid more.

Most Wisconsin counties have a choice between using an elected coroner or an appointed medical examiner. Currently 40 counties, out of 72, have a medical examiner, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Because of their size, Milwaukee and Dane are required to use medical examiners. 

Over the last five years the statewide trend has been away from coroners and toward the use of medical examiners. Most of the counties that border on Winnebago County use medical examiners, including Calumet, Waupaca, Waushara and Fond du Lac. Outagamie and Green Lake counties have coroners. 

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