by John Cox
There is a lot of discussion going on in Indianapolis to eliminate county elected offices and create a bureaucracy to do the work. Supporters of this proposal think that appointed employees should replace many elected county officials. They also propose to eliminate two county commissioners and require every county in Indiana to have one single county executive who appoints most of the other office holders.
This bad idea originated from a commission appointed by the governor to look at reorganizing local government. The problem is that most of the members of the commission have a big city background so it is no surprise they proposed a big city model. This is a bad idea that may actually cost the taxpayers more money and give poorer service to the public.
This proposal will eliminate the elected offices but will not eliminate the work.
Elected county officials are accountable to you, the voter. If the supporters of this idea are successful in eliminating county offices, those officeholders will be replaced by appointed bureaucrats. For example, your County Coroner is an elected official charged with investigating deaths in the county. It is important this person be independently elected and have the autonomy to conduct investigations without hindrance from appointing authorities.
The county coroner system in Indiana works. And, it works effectively and efficiently. Coroners, statewide, on an annual basis process tens of thousands of death certificates, investigate thousands of deaths and hire pathologists to perform thousands of autopsies. They do all of this for about a dollar fifty per citizen per year. The coroner system in Indiana accounts for approximately one-seventh of one percent of the property tax levy.
Indiana’s county coroners are some of the best trained elected officials in the country. We are required, by law, to complete a comprehensive training curriculum provided by the Indiana Coroners Training Board and then pass an extensive written exam in order to be certified. If we are not certified, the county can withhold our paycheck. The county assessor is the only other elected official subject to this required certification and potential loss of pay.
Of all the problems facing the state of Indiana , eliminating county and township elected offices should not be taking precious legislative time and energy. You can do something about it. You can call your legislators and tell them to leave local government alone. Tell them that you want to keep your right to vote for your elected officials.
John Cox is president of the Indiana State Coroners Association