November 24th, 2009

Buried in Wrong Grave, Exhumed and Reburied Without Consent (Who’s in Charge?)

A week ago I quietly passed my three year blawgiversary. And now after three years I’m doing something I’ve never done here; writing about a pending matter in my office.

This has been playing out in Newsday starting with a front page story on November 13th, seen at right. A man had been buried in the wrong grave the week before and, when the cemetery realized what it had done, it dug up the remains and re-buried them. The cemetery did so without the permission of the family, or even their knowledge. They did so without clergy, without a service, without any of the rites and rituals accorded to the dead and their families to which they were entitled.

Newsday subsequently revealed that this was the third time in a year that the cemetery has buried someone in the wrong grave. And further, that the cemetery’s manager, Vincent Iannocci, “had no prior experience running a cemetery.” Iannucci is a Republican town committeeman. The job pays $83,388 per year.

The place is Greenfield Cemetery, managed by the Town of Hempstead, and apparently the only town on Long Island to own a cemetery. The elected supervisor of the Town is Kate Murray.

I break my blog silence due to a Newsday editorial today that lauds the Town and Ms. Murray for acting “quickly to minimize the fallout from recent burial errors” by suspending Iannucci for 30 days and re-assigning him elsewhere.

But Newsday completely missed the important issues here:

1. Who hired a man to an 83K job running a cemetery when he has no experience?
2. What did Iannoucci do to get that job?
3. What (if anything) did the person that hired him get?
4. How can someone bury three different people in the wrong graves in one year and not be fired outright?
5. Why would the Town keep someone employed who appears to have engaged in a cover-up by exhuming and re-burying a body without getting the consent of the family and allowing them to be present? What other taxpayer-funded position would he be “reassigned” to?
6. Why isn’t the person that hired Iannoucci being fired for incompetence?

The case reminds me, to some extent, of Michael “You’re doing a heckuva job” Brownie who ran FEMA during the Katrina disaster. A political flunky whose prior experience was being the Judges and Stewards Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association.

If Iannoucci was a political appointee, then the person that hired him must be held accountable. Political connections are no substitute for competence.

Last time I checked, we were in a recession with 10% unemployment. It shouldn’t be too difficult finding a competent manager with experience. The voters and taxpayers of the Town should be appalled, not only that mistaken burials have been occurring, but that someone without experience was hired for the job, appeared to cover it up, and will nevertheless be allowed to continue on the public payroll.

Two footnotes:

  • First, this piece is written with the consent of the widow of the man who was buried, then exhumed and reburied without permission.