Politicians, by their very nature, and the inherent nature of the game, demand attention. And the good ones know how to do it right. Take State Rep Stephanie Kifowit as a prime example of someone who knows how to get her message across effectively.
It’s generally safe to say that you won’t come across too many shy elected officials.
With that stipulation duly noted, I’ve never come across an elected official who demands more attention than Kane County Coroner Rob Russell does. For better or worse, he loves seeing his name in print.
So with that in mind and not wanting to feed that Frankenstein, let’s move on to the facts and analysis.
Russell’s latest “I need a new facility” fracas with Chairman Chris Lauzen comes at the hands of a moldy morgue freezer which means we’ll have to temporarily outsource the autopsy investigation process to DuPage County
If you desire all of the dire details, please avail yourself of DH reporter Jim Fulller’s account which is surprisingly evenhanded considering that Chairman Lauzen’s involved. Way to go Jim!
So here goes:
1. After the Thanksgiving 2013 freezer fiasco, not only did the County Board provide the Coroner with the means to repair it, but they subsequently coughed up the cash to buy a new one.
And while I have to laud the Coroner for his cost saving attempt at sticking with the repair, saying he did so because he really needs is a new building that’s not even in the capital plan, is disingenuous at best and outright blackmail at worst.
2. Having taken a shot with the repair, blaming the chairman and the board for their lack of foresight when his own bet fell flat isn’t going to get anyone anywhere. The board gave the Coroner the wherewithal to purchase a new freezer, he chose not to, and now there’s mold.
That’s about as simple as cause and effect gets.
To make matters worse, instead of using this mistake as a cudgel and source of embarrassment, working WITH the Board might actually get you want you want. My bet is they’re not too happy that he told the Tribune, “I’m thinking of changing the name to the Kane County Coroner’s Garage.”
3. The reason I keeping saying “work with the board” is because all county chairmen are complicated coaches and nothing more.
Sure he has influence, but they don’t get a boardroom vote and they can’t veto anything the board approves! The only people with the power to make a new facility happen are those very same Kane County Board Members.
Invite them for a tour of your building. Objectively, and without emotion, point out the problems while suggesting solutions that convey careful consideration of their tenuous position on approving new spending. Behind the scenes always works better than in the newspapers.
4. Again, Kendall County Coroner, Ken Toftoy, approached the right people and freed the taxpayers from funding his new facility. I’m curious if Russell has reached out to his Kendall County counterpart as I did? Because now I know how Kenny pulled it off!
5. The Coroner isn’t special. Due to the economic downturn, every Kane County elected official had to bite the fiscal bullet. Budgets went bare bone, there were no raises, the unions were reasonable, and infrastructure improvements had to wait.
So when it’s the new guy who’s making all the noise about needing new stuff while the other guys have been patiently waiting in line, it doesn’t sit well with them. Make no mistake, those other elected officials can be your best allies, but you have to earn it.
6. Be careful what you wish for! If it’s this easy to outsource our morgue effort, perhaps Kane County would be better off by making that arrangement permanent.
We all know the biggest single expense in any county office is personnel, i.e., salaries, benefits and pensions. So if DuPage can step into this role on a regular basis, that means the Coroner could easily cut his staff in half and save the taxpayers some real cash.
Though the Internal Control statute Generally makes it difficult for the Board to make these kinds of decisions, the Coroner has certainly opened the door to that possibility.
The sad thing is, I could’ve ended this column after one short sentence. Because the bottom line is, this coroner will not be getting a new building as long he’s in office.