When U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., began his medical leave of absence June 10, there's one thing he and his family neglected to do — alert the public.
It's customary to alert your employer when you're taking time off, and let's face it — a congressman works for the constituents, not the other way around.
And when a congressman takes time off, the public is deprived of representation.
Jackson, who represents the 2nd District, is said to be suffering from exhaustion. But how long will that recovery take?
The Associated Press quoted Jackson spokesman Frank Watkins as saying, "I don't know how long he'll be out of action."
Until the news release, the public didn't know when Jackson began being out of action, either.
Jackson did his constituents a disservice when he didn't let them know immediately that he was taking time off from his job. Shame on him, his family and his staff for not being upfront with the public on this.
There's a right way and a wrong way to handle situations like this. U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk's family and staff deserve high marks for alerting the public about his stroke and posting timely updates on his condition. That's the right way to handle an emergency leave situation.
Kirk's example is a sharp contrast to Jackson's situation.
Jackson is reportedly under investigation by the House Ethics Committee over allegations that he was involved in the scandal that put Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in prison. That, of course, was Blagojevich's use of President Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat as a fundraising opportunity for Blagojevich.
As long as the House Ethics Committee is aware of Jackson's situation, it should take up the circumstances surrounding this leave of absence. The committee needs to address this issue to make sure no congressman goes incommunicado in the future without alerting the public.