OSHKOSH — A coroner in
eastern Wisconsin accused of sexually harassing multiple
women, leaving the state for months while still collecting
paychecks and retaliating against whistleblowers should
make the appropriate decision and step down, officials
Bill Wingren, chair of the
Winnebago County Judiciary and Public Safety Committee,
said this week that he's looking into the allegations
against longtime County Coroner Barry Busby, the Oshkosh
Northwestern Media reported. Wingren said he's working
with the county executive, human resources and corporation
"We have to look at
all these allegations," Wingren said. "This
whole process has to be about the issues — not
personality, certainly not politics. We want to make sure
that we have the facts. We're investigating and hope to
have some concrete results."
One of the grievances
against Busby came from a woman who said he sexually
harassed her last October during the Wisconsin Coroners
and Medical Examiners Association conference. It wasn't
the first time a woman accused Busby of sexual harassment
there. In 2017, Miranda Zuhlke sent the association a
letter about unsolicited sexual remarks she alleges Busby
made to her at that year's fall conference. The subsequent
morning, Busby came up to her to apologize but also said
he only made his comments because she was "just
really pretty," she wrote.
"He has a very bad
reputation for being the way he is," Zuhlke recently
told the newspaper. "I think anybody that knows him
or spends any time with him or knows him in years past
would attest to his behavior. People can form their own
opinions, but this is how he is."
Busby, who's been coroner
since 1997 after then-Gov. Tommy Thompson appointed him,
told The Associated Press on Thursday he believes he'll be
Winnebago County officials
said they're investigating the possibility of replacing
the coroner position with a medical examiner. Wingren said
he's considering offering a proposal to the board to
officially reprimand Busby.
"I just have to look
for direction," he said. "I don't know what that
does, though. In government, sometimes symbols are
important. I'm just hoping that he just does the right
thing (and resign)."
Shiloh Ramos, chairman of
the county board, also said he thinks that Busby should
The committee is scheduled
to discuss the matter at its next meeting on Aug. 12,
according to Wingren.
The investigation comes as
state and federal agencies also review discrimination
grievances against the county and as a former chief deputy
coroner mulls filing a lawsuit for unlawful termination.
Chris Shea, a former chief
deputy coroner, filed a discrimination complaint against
Busby with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce
Development Equal Rights Division. The suit alleged Shea
was terminated by his former boss over fears that he would
divulge allegations of Busby's sexual harassment and
accused the coroner of spending most of the winter out of
state instead of at his job.
"I did have a copy of
a sexual harassment charge that was given to me by (an
employee in Busby's office) in the fall of 2018 and I was
also aware of other unethical things that he was doing and
I wondered if this was why I was let go," Shea wrote
in the complaint.
Shea's attorney, Nate Cade,
said his client's next move could include a lawsuit.
Wingren commended Busby for
what he called "a storied career" in service to
the county and the state but added he cannot ignore the
"I beat the drum
(that) the government needs to be open, honest and
accountable," he said. "This is not open, honest
and accountable at all. We're failing the people."