Change to appointed medical examiner is right one

SWITCHING FROM AN ELECTED coroner to an appointed medical examiner is the right move for Sheboygan County.

That’s despite the unfounded objections raised by Supervisor Jim Baumgart in his “Your County” column that runs regularly in The Review and the Beacon.

Supervisor Baumgart is right that the change will mean one less office that voters get to fill at an election – but that’s about the only thing he had right.

The impetus for the change did not come from County Administrator Adam Payne or any members of the County Board. It came from the incumbent coroner, David Leffin, as a result of his pending retirement at the end of the year following 27 years of service in the position.

Leffin, a registered nurse, is concerned that the position might not be filled with a qualified individual if it remains an elected position – a justifiable and understandable concern.

The coroner is responsible for investigating unattended, accidental and suspicious deaths in the county; preparing and signing death certificates, including determining the cause and nature of death, and more.

It is true that some of that could be performed by any average person, but there are many more cases where medical knowledge and expertise are necessary. Should the loved ones of a deceased person in such a case be subjected to an unqualified coroner who won election because he or she was the only one who bothered to collect 500 signatures on a petition and won election to the post?

Switching to an appointed medical examiner position would ensure that the county and its citizens would continue to be served – as they have, fortunately, for Sheboygan County for its history – by a qualified and competent medical professional. Making the position an appointed medical examiner would enable the county to write those qualifications into the job description – something that can’t be done with an elected coroner.

More and more counties have already moved to or are considering that option. The medical examiner position has already been established in 30 of the state’s 72 counties – including neighboring Calumet, Fond du Lac and Washington counties – and is under consideration in a number of other counties, including Chippewa and Rock counties.

The coroner position is scheduled to be on the ballot this fall, which means it would be prudent to make the change before April 15, when potential candidates can take out petitions to run for the office.

Despite this, the proposal has not been ‘fast-tracked’ at all, as Supervisor Baumgart has charged. It was first recommended by Leffin last fall and has followed the same process as every other ordinance or resolution adopted by the County Board – it was introduced to the board by one committee (the Law Committee) in February, then referred to another committee (the Executive Committee) for its recommendation before returning to the County Board for final action in March.

Both those committees considered the proposal in open session and both approved it unanimously after hearing no objection from anyone – including Supervisor Baumgart. That’s 10 supervisors – 40 percent of the County Board – who have already endorsed Leffin’s proposal after careful consideration and study.

Weighed objectively and intelligently, switching to an appointed medical examiner is the way to go.

At issue:
Appointed medical examiner
Bottom line:
Best option for all

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