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Centralia Mine Disaster and Public Administration Failure Case Study


Introduction

In 25 March 1947, a blast in Centralia, Illinois highlighted several failures in Public Administration. This once peaceful town was rocked with a coal mine explosion, that had deadly consequences. The buildup coal dust was ignited by a charge, causing an explosion on the mine that had been very essential in providing coal during World War II. However, this incident did not come as a surprise to the federal agencies and other professionals. This is because there was an accumulation of letters and complaints from inspection results reiterating the hazards posed by the mine. The mine companies as well as the mine safety agencies had been notified by safety professionals about the danger in the mine. These notifications had been made in several occasions. Amidst calls from the mine’s union to correct the identified hazards, no action was taken. One hundred and one people lost their lives in the coal mines after the explosion (Hartley & Kenney, 2006).

Logistical options for Scanlan

“The 1974 coal mine disaster in Centralia, Illinois changed how mining laws and regulations were enforced” (Hartley & Kenney, 2006). Scanlan, who was the district inspector at the time, identified the hazards surrounding the coal mines and reported his findings about a possible explosion to other relevant professionals. However, these professionals failed to observe the law and the safety procedures recommended by Scanlan. Scanlan should not have taken heed to the words of the director of department of Minerals and Mines. He should have taken his concerns and findings to State Mine Board or the Governor of Illinois so that further investigations are done on the matter. The logistical options that he should have dealt with include corruption, responsibility, communication and time.

Scanlan had trouble when communicating with people who were able to impose laws and regulate activities in the mines. After sending many reports to his seniors without getting any response, Scanlan should have sought face-to-face meetings in order to resolve the issue about the reports he had filed. It was also clear corruption was rampant during the time when Scanlan worked as inspector. The officers high in authority would bend some rules for corrupt businesspersons to run their agenda. This is evident by the fact that some mine owners partied with some inspectors. Scanlan also took a lot of time trying to communicate with his seniors. However, a lot of time was wasted as he waited for the implementation of his reports. Scanlan also wanted the responsibility for the conditions in the mines to be taken by someone. More than a hundred people lost their lives because of lack of responsibility from the relevant authorities (Fanning, 2007).

Scanlan’s motivation towards the Constitution (the law)

Scanlan knew that it was his responsibility to provide the mineworkers with fair working conditions, representation as well as equality. He knew about the misappropriation of funds within the mining companies as well as the discrimination that was being practiced against the mineworkers.

Scanlan’s bureaucracy

Scanlan’s job was to oversee safe and regulated practices in the mines. He duly observed his chain of command by alerting his seniors about hazards present in the coal mines. At one time, he recommended that the mines be closed because of the dangers present there. He made numerous phone calls and wrote many letters in efforts to fulfill his obligation to the public as well as to the mineworkers. However, when it became clear to him that the authorities were not interested in taking any action, Scanlan should have made a public outcry about the matter to protect the safety of the miners; this would have attracted the attention of human rights’ activities, trade unions as well as other relevant organizations and authorities.

Although Scanlan showed a lot of concern about the results of the inspections that he did, he failed to take matters further than his immediate seniors did. Had he done so, his findings would probably have been viewed more seriously than before and the relevant procedures established. Miners and public always depend on people in Scanlan’s position to protect their interests and notify them whenever a serious concern arises. Having been a miner at one time, Scanlan must have been fully aware of this. He should therefore have gone out of his way to notify the miners through their union.

Possible paths of action for Scanlan

These two possible paths of action for Scanlan were to impose his own power and authority and have the operations in the mines postponed until it was safe to there again, and address the federal, local as well as the state mining authorities about the matter. The reports that Scanlan filed showed that mining laws were not being observed. Although he communicated this to his immediate senior official, no action was taken and there seemed to be lack of commitment from those corrupt authorities. He recommended to the director of mining, Mr. Robert Medill, to shut down the mines and clean them up but that did not happen.

After having several unsuccessful attempts to have his report implemented, Scanlan should have taken the responsibility to correct all the concerns. However, many unethical and illegal dealings were going on beyond the control of Scanlan. The miners were being controlled with money by some government authorities and mining companies. In this case, it was clear that no one was ready to protect the interest of the miners. Although Scanlan had the power to shut down the mines immediately he was sure that they were in danger of exploding, he chose to be fair to the mine companies by giving them numerous chances to improve the conditions in the mines. He followed this up with the numerous reports he sent to his seniors about the condition of the mines.

Scanlan’s best option when he realized that no action was being taken would have been to resign from his job. However, he knew that he was professionally obligated to protect the concerns of mineworkers. Since he had the power to shut down the mines, he should have done so after realizing the danger lurking in the mines. Such an action would have not only attracted the attention of many agencies and authorities, but also saved the lives of the more than a hundred people who eventually died in an explosion in the mines. Besides this, the morality of the situation should have mattered more than its legality since there was no law in Illinois that prevented anyone from contributing secretly to a political cause (Stillman, 2010). Therefore, if Scanlan had resigned after making fruitless attempts to protect the interest of the miners, he would not have professionally been accountable for the death of the 111 people (Scanlan, 1947, April 24).

References

Fanning, F. (2007). Best of the best newsletter article. Web.

Hartley, R. E., & Kenney, D. (2006). Death underground: The Centralia and West Frankfort mine disasters. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Scanlan, D. (1947). Statement of Driscoll O. Scanlan before legislative Committee. Centralia: Illinois.

Stillman, R. J. (2010). Public administration: Concepts and cases. Boston, Mass: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

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IvyPanda. (2020, July 23). Centralia Mine Disaster and Public Administration Failure. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/centralia-mine-disaster-and-public-administration-failure/

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"Centralia Mine Disaster and Public Administration Failure." IvyPanda, 23 July 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/centralia-mine-disaster-and-public-administration-failure/.

1. IvyPanda. "Centralia Mine Disaster and Public Administration Failure." July 23, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/centralia-mine-disaster-and-public-administration-failure/.


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IvyPanda. "Centralia Mine Disaster and Public Administration Failure." July 23, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/centralia-mine-disaster-and-public-administration-failure/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Centralia Mine Disaster and Public Administration Failure." July 23, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/centralia-mine-disaster-and-public-administration-failure/.

References

IvyPanda. (2020) 'Centralia Mine Disaster and Public Administration Failure'. 23 July.

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