Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Winnebago Coroner Barry Busby faces censure vote

Oshkosh Media
The 72-year-old coroner has been accused of sexual harassment and of spending excessive time out of state.

By Miles Maguire

The county’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee has scheduled a vote of censure and no confidence regarding Coroner Barry Busby.

In a meeting notice dated Aug. 5, the committee said it plans to go into closed session on Monday to consider possible litigation as well as to discuss “medical or personal histories which, if discussed in public, would be likely to have a substantial adverse effect upon the reputation of any person referred to in such histories.”

After it comes out of closed session, the committee will consider and possibly vote on a “declaration of censure and no confidence” in the coroner, according to the meeting notice.

The committee has held at least two closed-door meetings on Busby, who was re-elected last November but since then has spent long periods of time out of state. He also fired his top deputy and has been awaiting the results of a sexual harassment investigation by the Wisconsin Coroners and Medical Examiners Association.

The coroner, a Republican, has served in that office for more than 20 years and earns an annual salary of $72,989. He oversees a budget of slightly more than $500,000 and is assisted by three part-time workers: an administrative associate and two deputy coroners. A website biography says Busby worked in the Oshkosh Police Department for 27 years and retired as a sergeant.

Busby, 72, has enjoyed high regard among voters and taken a high profile role in initiatives to address suicide and drug overdoses. But it has apparently been an open secret in certain circles that the coroner is frequently away from the office and is known for making inappropriate contact with women.

For his part Busby has defended the operations of the coroner’s office and noted that there have been no complaints registered with the county by members of the general public.

Busby was not immediately available for comment.

The censure vote, even if adopted by the full county Board of Supervisors, would not necessarily lead to changes in the coroner’s officer. As an elected official, Busby does not have any administrative supervisor and answers only to voters.

Officials have considered the idea of reducing the funding for the coroner’s office as a way of forcing Busby to resign. But they fear that such a move would have a negative impact on county residents.

As coroner, Busby is responsible for investigating suspicious or unexplained deaths such as murders, suicides and overdoses as well as providing services such as cremation permits and death certificates. Members of the coroner’s office, are frequently called on to interact with people who have lost a loved one under sudden and painful circumstances.

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