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April 28, 2010 - Joe Gorman
This firestorm over the absence of the Mahoning County Coroner's office at a triple accident in Campbell Saturday will be remembered for a long time.
Usually in the news cycle, people or things take a hit for awhile and then the dust settles and everyone forgets about it.
But Dr. David Kennedy's refusal to come or send a representative to the scene of the accident, where a car crashed into a Cynthia Drive, killing three inside tyhe car, will be remembered, especially because it is so close to the election, where the fate of Mahoning County's half percent sales tax renewal is on the line,
Eariler this month, Kennedy said he was laying off an investigator because of budget cuts to his office, which meant that in most cases, investigators will not be starting their work until the next business day. And in this case, because it was on a weekend, families were forced to wait about 48 hours before the bodies of the victims were released from the morgue and had their identifications verified. Reports have also said that the layoffs are not taking effect until the end of this month, which meant an investigator should have been available Saturday.
The shaky state of the county's finances is taking a hit here, but the truth of the matter is if you do not want to pay overtime for a guy to come out on Saturday, then you should do it yourself. Cars don't smash into houses often and it is even rarer that three people are killed when it does happen. Someone should be there, if at more for the families than for anyone else.
That seems to be the crux of the argument. But being so close to the election, there has to be worries that this could take a chunk out of the support for the sales tax because of furor over Kennedy's actions. Indeed, it seems like Mahoning County has a history of cutting something important -- usually in law enforcement -- just before the election. In fact, the sheriff's office tried it this year, but a federal judge shot that down because of a consent decree over how the county jail is run,
Perhaps Kennedy was thinking a lack of response would spur voters into approving the tax to bring back needed personnel and services. If so, that is mistaken. This has just riled too many people up. As for the lack of investigators, a department like Youngstown, which has ample experience in dealing with homicides and other questionable deaths, probably does not need the expertise of an investigator. But a small department like Beaver or Jackson or Milton probably does need an investigator at a crime scene.
Kennedy is supposed to have a sit down with commissioners Friday over his budget and his actions. Who knows what to expect?
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