Wednesday morning, Columbus Mayor Robert Smith released a statement on his health.
It turned out to be a lot like ordering a meal at a bad restaurant: It arrived late and there wasn’t much to it when it got there.
We acknowledge the sensitive nature of this matter. Americans, even when they are public officials, have an expectation of privacy, especially when it relates to health matters. There are few rights guarded more rigidly in our society than the privacy of a person’s medical information. Elected officials do not forfeit those rights.
Yet, because these officials perform the public’s work, we believe it is important for them to share more information than might be expected of a private citizen. Citizens need to know if the people they have entrusted to do the public’s bidding are capable of the task at hand or can reasonably be expected to perform those duties in the future and, if so, when. This goes well beyond morbid curiosity.
The mayor’s statement did little to enlighten us on those relevant questions.
On Feb. 21, the mayor was admitted into Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle, where he was treated for 12 hours. Vice mayor Bill Gavin has assumed mayoral duties since shortly after that time. Although Smith has issued brief responses to questions about news items, until Wednesday, he had not addressed his health.
Seventeen days after being admitted to the hospital, the mayor released a tree-sentence statement. It read:
“I continue to recover at home from health-related issues until further notice. I am still under the care of my doctor. My family and I are most appreciative for the prayers and well wishes we have received during this time.”
Unfortunately, the statement shed no light on the prospect of him being able to resume his duties or — perhaps as important — whether he intends to continue his campaign for reelection.
There has also been speculation the mayor suffered a stroke or heart attack, though Gavin has said publicly he doesn’t believe Smith is recovering from either.
A more forthright statement would have done much to set the record straight on those matters.
Wednesday’s statement does nothing to end those rumors, a situation that benefits neither the mayor nor his constituents.
No doubt, the mayor has the thoughts, prayer and well-wishes of all citizens for a quick and full recovery.
In the meantime, we encourage the mayor to keep the public informed on his status for the benefit of a concerned community.