Absentee officeholders owe voters explanation

I found myself feeling quite confused the other day while reading the article in the Daily Reporter about the two officeholders who don’t keep regular office hours for their elected positions.

Marcie Stafford is the Fortville clerk-treasurer, and Crystel Myers is the county coroner. Both, presumably, knew the duties of their offices prior to their elections.

Myers has not participated in one coroner investigation since her first year in office. Stafford has refused to appear regularly in her office for quite some time, saying she is primarily working from home.

These are interesting approaches to doing their work.

Did either one, when campaigning for these offices, state a desire to work from home or simply supervise others, without doing the work? Did either one discuss this desire with previous officeholders or other elected officials to determine if this would be a workable solution?

Answers to both questions would likely help me, and I presume others, understand their motivation for taking these offices and for refusing to step down when so many appear dissatisfied with their job performance.

A generic term used for elected officials is public servant. To be a public servant, one must be in a position to meet the public. This is usually done in a public place, such as a government office. Both of these individuals should be making every effort to let their employer, the people who live in the county and Fortville, know how they are serving the public.

To be a servant, one must be available to serve. These two seem to have forgotten this.

Working from home or having your deputies do all the work seems to avoid serving. And I believe this is the basis of the dissatisfaction of so many.

There are several local examples of good public servants. Mayor Chuck Fewell of Greenfield makes himself available to the public frequently. Sheriff Mike Shepherd is another who is out in the public eye frequently. While county coroner and Fortville clerk-treasurer are not high-profile positions, the people who hold these positions currently could learn much from the mayor and sheriff.

Myers and Stafford are not the first to take on public office and then seemingly disappear from public view. This happens with amazing regularity. But why would people do this?

Are they simply overwhelmed by the duties of the job? Did they see getting elected as something to accomplish without thinking about the work that would follow?

And why not step down, if so many are dissatisfied with their job performance? These are not policy-making positions. It is not a matter of disagreeing with their ideas on public policy. It is a matter of seeing each person not performing the duties of the position.

I believe there are many who are great at the interview but lack the desire or ability to actually do the work. In elected government, there are those who do a great job at getting elected but lack the desire to do the work or do not have the ability. So what to do about this?

One thing to do is to streamline the process for removing a person from office who is not doing the job for which they are elected. Based on news reports, we have been dealing with the behaviors of these two for some time.

I am not talking about removing a person because a group simply disagrees with that person’s policies. If elected, they should be allowed to finish their terms and then be removed by the voters. I am talking about the person who is not fulfilling the duties of the office and there is demonstrable evidence of this, like not showing up in the office or not doing the work assigned.

Another is to reduce the number of elected positions. There are many elected positions within our various levels of government that are administrative or investigative in nature. These would include coroners and clerks. They should be hired by the elected administrators, based on clearly defined qualifications.

If the elected official’s judgment as to who should be hired is based on political patronage and the people hired are not able to do the job, then that elected official should not be re-elected.

I know many will disagree with my assessment. Some will argue that political patronage will become out of control. There is that danger. But is what we are doing now working?

Help me understand other ways to make it better. I might agree with you.

Jim Matthews of Greenfield is a licensed clinical social worker. He can be reached at jem75@sbcglobal.net.