Published April 26, 2010
Today is the day the community and the families are getting the official announcement of the identities of the three young people who died in a Campbell car wreck at 5:03 a.m. Saturday morning.
They are: Elijah B. Paige, 20, of Gordon Avenue, Campbell, the driver; Poetry H. Dotson, 21, of Reed Avenue, Campbell; and Ian A. Stores, 17, of East Parkside Drive, Boardman, who was identified this morning by The Vindicator after his family confirmed his death.
It normally does not take this long to have the victims of such a tragedy identified. As a result, decisions made by the county coroner’s office are under fire.
While the families learned the tragic consequences almost immediately, the lack of coroner’s confirmation keeps too many aspects of their lives on hold.
Mahoning County Coroner Dr. David Kennedy announced a layoff and a change in services two weeks ago. That announcement centered on not being able to go to all death scenes, the lost investigative opportunities, the forensic detail that could help determine that a fall might actually be a push, etc.
The announcement did not layout the potential that three young people killed in a car accident would have to sit for two days before an official could say “Yes, this is indeed John Smith.”
Here are some things to note about this:
• Kennedy earns at least $61,000 per year working part-time as coroner.
• The lost staffing for his office has not even taken place yet. It is set to happen Friday. But at the time of the accident, Kennedy was staffed as he had been.
All of it is perfect timing for the upcoming sales tax renewal vote.
Add Kennedy’s case to Judge Belinky and his under-investigation investigator, the commissioners’ spending decisions, the engineer’s office, the three officials under the Oakhill probe, etc.
All of it reinforces that no matter how much or how little we spend on government, we still have leaders with a sense of entitlement and “What’s in it for me?”
There is no real-world reality in government these days.
In the case of Dr. Kennedy’s office, with two remaining investigators and a deputy coroner, here’s how it would work in the real world:
One staffer’s schedule gets shifted to Sunday to Thursday; another works Tuesday to Saturday. For weekend nights, the coroner and his deputy could create a system of who’s on call, at no cost to county taxpayers since they are salaried.
In any case, under the worst-case scenarios, say, a triple-fatal accident, if you’re the boss of the department, you handle it yourself if “it has to be done.”
I think three dead teenagers ranks up there with “it has to be done.”
This may seem over-simplistic, and I’m sure under-estimating some nuance of coroner operations. But this is how the private sector deals with staff adjustments.
We can approve the sales tax or not. But the level of service we get is ultimately not attached to how much we give government to spend.
When incidents like what happened this weekend occur, it convinces you that if we give government more to spend, we simply ensure the workers will get more for their pensions, more of their cronies get hired, more raises will happen, etc. — all of things that taxpayers no longer enjoy. And three dead kids will still be allowed to sit.
Nothing about voting for the sales tax assures me that we will get better service as long as we have leadership like was exhibited this weekend from a $61,000 part-time government official.