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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Gazette gave Coroner the Treatment

Because the state had provided no proper procedure for disposal, Rock County Coroner Jenifer Keach said she had burned confiscated drugs from death scenes in her own backyard one time. Of course, she should have known that handling this sensitive material would be questioned only because the last coroner resigned in shame after admitting stealing drugs for her own use.

What should have been a routine look at the procedures and duties of the coroner’s office turned into front page headlines for the Gazette on Friday and repeated as the top headline in the local section on Saturday. The Gazette also created a perception that Keach was doing something illegal and attempted to hide it by claiming she “admitted” to wrongdoing when she was simply answering questions. This was done again by the Gazette when they termed her responses as an “admission.”

Jenifer Keach is a Democrat appointed by Gov. Jim Doyle to fill the coroners office vacated by Gilbertson. She deserves to be cut some slack not because she’s a democrat but because she is rather new to the job and did not receive transitional input and support from her predecessor. The results from the hearing should have gotten no further than the "Briefs" column in the local section. The Gazette should be ashamed of themselves for blowing this way out of proportion, but she is a Democrat, so they gave her the “treatment.”

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

It was handled this way because Adam Peer, head Republican of Rock County, has the Gazette in his back pocket. He is using his position as Chairman of the Public Safety and Justice Commitee to further his canidate, Brad Farrell. Isn't this a breach of ethics? Does he plan on removing all elected positions from the voters of Rock County or just the one that benefits his canidate?

Tom Haas said...

Dear Friends

Here Here!! I support this letter by Anonymous, and also the original post by Louis Kaye. I find it FASCINATING that Coroner Keach is getting flack for trying to do, and doing the right thing regarding drug disposal in the Coroner's Office. The Janesville Gazette would NOT mention that neither the Rock County Sheriff's Dept. or the Janesville Police Dept. refused to be involved or take any responsibility for drug destruction procedures. Coroner Keach destroyed the drugs in her backyard in a proper way, witnessed and co-signed by her Chief Deputy, with accountability and witnesses as befits her training as a nurse. Of course, because it was a step of responsibility and authority, it was regarded as wrong by the myopic chief County Commissioner, and reflected by the lapdog Gazette. FASCINATING that she is judged "wrong" for taking a positive and responsible step, as fulfillment of her sworn duties.

By the way, I can think of no better way for the Rock County Coroner's Office to be responsible to the people of Rock County than to be an elected official, initially appointed by the Governor, and NOT subject to the whims and wishes of the County Commissioner. This is a job that should be above any influence from party politics, just as the Police, Fire, and Sheriff's Dept. should be be. Public Service is just that-service to the public, something that Adam Peer should recognize and even learn.

I have contacted Mr. Peer several times and even spoken to him personally at the Rock County Republican Party Lincoln Day dinner in February 2006 (Yes, I am a registered Republican), giving him my card. He has not returned my calls or tried to contact me. I also met with the Administrative people in February of 2005 regarding the differences between a cororner and a medical examiner. No results there either.

Adam Peer is threatened by not being completely in control of Rock County officials, and it is eating him up. There is no other reason for this entire controvery, and he won't be happy until he holds all the cards.

Audrey Costerisan said...

A wise gentleman once told me that "desperate men do desperate things". Perhaps Adam Peer wouldn't be so desperate if he was truly representing his constituents' best interests.

Louis Kaye said...

The website, rockcountycoroner.com is a rather simple page that everyone is entitled to, however the site address along with the dot com suffix implies it is thee place for information, news, etc. regarding the office of coroner. More properly, Mr. Farrell should have titled it Farrellforcoroner.com considering he is running for a political office. The other feeling I get is that Adam Peer is supporting his campaign which is odd for someone who seems to want to close the office. Ahhh, such is politics.

Which brings me to this point. If the coroner became an appointment-only office, the examiner would be serving at the whim of the politically charged board of commissioners or Governor. It could actually create more abuses. With a change of Governors or board members they could just as easily discharge a capable examiner for a political favor or cronyism, abuse the office and introduce patronage. In today’s political climate, you can almost bet on it.

It sounds good on paper to appoint a credentialed medical expert as coroner, but that is in a perfect world. Most people with credentials oftentimes lack the enthusiasm and commitment needed for the job. Some feel that their education allows them to put in less time on the job, that they were hired to delegate authority, not actually do the hard labor. Don't get wrong, Finally, credentials are no guarantee to competency. But don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking education.

I’ve never met Ms. Keach, but I’ve read through the political rubble of the Gazette and I believe she has the number one qualification that is needed for the job – passion, and the commitment to do whatever it takes to get the job done. That’s the best reason to make her our coroner, but I’m partisan, so she’s got my vote anyways.

Jenifer Keach said...

I am gratified at the public support I have recieved from people able to read between the lines. There a lot of facts that the Janesville Gazette declined to print when they chose to write a story designed to encourge unflattering speculation. I can only guess at their reasons for doing so. I have learned the hard way that my desire to be straight forward in my communications will be taken advantage of by those looking for an angle.

When I was asked to speak to the Public Safety and Justice Committee about my policies, I agreed to do so knowing full well I was walking into a political ambush. My security concerns were justified. My responses to the questions were honest. If I must take criticism for decisions based on a lack of reasonable options, so be it. Regardless of where it was done, the medications were handled and destroyed according to policy with a sworn member of my staff as witness. I am confident that the policies and procedures I have established have addressed the concerns the public had in relation to the former Coroner.

The fact remains that there are few who have offered an acceptable alternative destruction method for collected medications. My best hope is that this issue will spawn some constructive dialog and activity that will address this issue on a county-wide scale. After all, the Coroner's Office is not the only county office that faces destruction issues.

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