The Oct. 1, 2017 massacre raised the profile of then-Coroner John Fudenberg to a national stage. Stories were written about his office using meditation to help first responders deal with the trauma of the mass shooting, and invitations to talk at various conferences about the tragedy flooded in. But after his retirement in August 2020, the Review-Journal received tips that his tenure was plagued with ethical issues.
Additionally, no one had reported Fudenberg's lucrative $175,000 retirement package that included severance, early retirement and cash outs of sick and vacation leave. My review of hundreds of records raised serious questions about his actions in office.
What I found: Fudenberg repeatedly blocked off vacation time on his calendar that he didn't log into the county's payroll system, potentially allowing him to take vacation and then cash about $20,000 out at retirement. A company co-owned by Fudenberg's girlfriend received a county contract to do meditation sessions, potentially violating the county's ethics rules. And Fudenberg failed to fill out key disclosures that would have revealed how much honorarium he received for speaking engagements. The story raised questions about oversight of county officials like the coroner. His boss, Assistant County Manager Jeff Wells told me: "I don't micromanage."