Friday, August 9, 2019

Winnebago Coroner Busby is retaliating over pay, benefits, according to his former chief deputy

A former chief deputy coroner has told county officials of disarray in the way the office operates.

By Miles Maguire

Coroner Barry Busby feels justified in not performing his job because he believes “the county has screwed him over on pay, benefits and retirement,” his former chief deputy said in a written statement provided to Winnebago officials earlier this year.

After he lost his job as chief deputy coroner on March 6, Chris Shea met with County Executive Mark Harris and other officials and provided them with a four-page document describing what Busby “was doing or not doing,” Shea said in a complaint filed with the state.

Busby, whose 102-year-old mother died earlier this week in DeKalb, Illinois, did not respond to a request for comment. He faces the possibility of a formal censure vote on Monday by the county Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. County officials have expressed concern about Busby's extended travels out of state and about multiple complaints of sexual harassment.

The coroner has defended the operations of his office and pointed to the lack of public complaints about any official responsibilities. He also said he fired Shea according to regulations and in consultation with the county’s Department of Human Resources.

In the document Shea accused of Busby of misusing county resources by applying travel funds to training conferences but then skipping the sessions to play golf. Shea also said Busby treated the office administrator “as his own personal assistant for countless hours” of private business, including dealing with family members, handling paperwork and arranging personal travel.

The administrator, Kimberly Maki, has also driven “Barry to and from special appointments and flights … all on Winnebago County time and payroll,” Shea wrote.

Maki, who has also worked as a deputy coroner, has been employed in the coroner’s office since 2013, according to county records. She did not respond to a request for comment.

In Shea’s description, Maki is the one doing much of the work that should be the duty of the coroner. He noted that the coroner is involved in a variety of programs and task forces working on issues such as child deaths, suicides and drug use.

“Barry Busby wants his name highlighted as the founder/presenter, but Kim Maki, the secretary, is actually the only one gathering all the information and spending hours of her time that Barry Busby, as the elected Winnebago County coroner, should be doing,” Shea wrote. “It’s his job. Not hers.”

A review of county records supports this point. Maki has been a regular participant at meetings of the Child Death Review Team and the Overdose Fatality Review Team, but since late last year Busby has rarely attended, meeting minutes show.

Shea depicts Busby as disengaged from the administrative operations of his office. “He does not do payroll,” Shea said. If Maki is not available to handle pay claims, another deputy does it using “Maki’s secure log-in,” Shea said.

Payroll is not a routine issue in the coroner’s office because the deputies are paid on a per-diem basis and have fluctuating workloads.

Busby has trouble with the technology required to sign death certificates, Shea said. “He needs another member of the staff there to help him or do it for him,” Shea said.

According to Shea, Busby rarely makes trips to the field. “If Barry goes to death scenes, they are only high-profile cases so he can have his name and face seen in the public,” Shea wrote. “This then turns into an unprofessional social hour for him with law enforcement officers and deputies cringing and turning their back to him in embarrassment.”

Along with the letter, Shea provided county officials with a copy of a sexual harassment complaint filed against Busby with the Wisconsin Coroners and Medical Examiners Association.

“I have witnessed Barry being inappropriate in conversations publicly and in the office as well,” Shea said. He will freely comment on the phone to a female … or in public, “You have a sexy voice, do you have a boyfriend? Do you like older men? What’s a beautiful woman doing out all by herself,” Shea added.

“Be prepared because Winnebago County will have to deal with this injustice Barry Busby has created, all on his own,” Shea wrote.

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