TOWN OF NORTH HARMONY
EMERGENCY TOWN BOARD MEETING
THURSDAY, 8/26/2021, 6:30 PM
ROBERT YATES, SUPERVISOR PRESENT
DICK SENA, COUNCIL PRESENT
LOUISE ORTMAN, COUNCIL PRESENT
STEVE SENSKE, COUNCIL PRESENT
MIKE PFEIL, COUNCIL PRESENT
OTHERS PRESENT: Dale Robbins & Kelly Johnson, Attorneys; Carter Burkhart; Robin Miller, Bookkeeper; Highway M.E.O.’s: Andy Post, Stephen Pihl, Ted Pugh, Ryan Hinsdale, Benny Karlson, Austin Davis; Nancy Thomas, Town Clerk
- PLEDGE AND MOMENT OF SILENCE
A moment of silence was observed at the passing of Art Samples and for the 13 U.S. forces lost in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan today.
Mr. Yates brought the meeting to order at 6:30 PM. He asked the Highway M.E.O.’s present to introduce themselves. He said the current situation has been discussed at length with many Highway Superintendents, legal counsel, and others. He said our main concern is what is right for the town. He asked Mr. Robbins and Mrs. Johnson to review the information they have researched and following are options relative to the possibility of a vacancy in the position of Highway Superintendent and Deputy.
- A vacancy occurs by way of written resignation that is delivered to the Town Clerk and filed. No vacancy occurs until that is received.
- Once the position is vacant, the Town Board appoints a new Highway Superintendent. (There are different timing issues with different scenarios). Under the scenario that is being faced by the North Harmony Town Board, the resignation falls after August 2, so the appointed Highway Superintendent will serve until December 31, 2022.
- At the election in 2022, a new Highway Superintendent will be elected who will serve the remaining term for the vacancy. (Here it is December 31, 2023).
- The Highway Superintendent MUST be a qualified, resident of the Town.
- The residency requirement cannot be waived. Should the Town Board wish to change this elected position to an appointed position, it MUST be done through passing a local law subject to MANDATORY REFERENDUM (voted on by entire electorate of the town) to eliminate the residency requirement.
Mr. Robbins said it would take at least a month to set the time-frame for a Local Law to be developed for the town board to act upon. He said then to set a Referendum Vote after the local law is passed takes approximately 60-90 days before a vote by all registered voters in the town can be arranged.
- A local law changing residency requirements can be narrow or wide. Meaning it can be narrowed to allow anyone in a neighboring town or can be wide to include county residence or state.
Deputy Highway Superintendent:
- A vacancy occurs by way of written resignation that is delivered to the Town Clerk. (Preferable to include a copy to the Town Board)
- The deputy functions as the highway superintendent during an absence or inability of the highway superintendent to perform his or her duties.
- The appointment power for the deputy highway superintendent belongs to the Highway Superintendent, not the Town Board.
- The only exception occurs when the Highway Superintendent fails to appoint a deputy within five days of the deputy vacancy, then the Town Board may appoint deputy. The Highway Superintendent does not waive his or her appointment powers if he or she fails to appoint a deputy in that five-day period and the Highway Superintendent at any time may remove a Town Board appointed deputy.
- The deputy must be a resident of the town.
- The Town may change the residency requirement through a local law (No Referendum Vote required). It is important to note that by changing the residency portion of the deputy position, it does not change appointment powers which still remain with the Highway Superintendent, thereby granting the Highway Superintendent broader power.
Mr. Senske asked Mrs. Thomas if Mr. Strickland has officially submitted a resignation.
Mrs. Thomas said no but he is aware that when he is ready to resign it must be a written resignation.
Mrs. Miller said his official retirement date is 8/31/21, but that does not qualify as his resignation.
Mr. Senske asked if a referendum vote could only take place during a regular November election.
Mr. Robbins said it can be done anytime but it is expensive.
Mr. Pfeil asked if a Superintendent resigns does the Deputy take over immediately?
Mrs. Johnson said technically the board is to appoint someone as Superintendent and that person would have powers/duties the same as if they were elected. He would also have the power to appoint his own Deputy.
There was further discussion of local law parameters in relation to residency requirements for the Superintendent position.
Mr. Pfeil said the information shared with him had only been in regard to the Deputy position.
Mr. Senske said he believes there are some towns that do not have a residency requirement for both Superintendent and Deputy positions. He said counsel has indicated that a residency referendum vote is difficult to get passed.
Mr. Yates opened the floor for Highway M.E.O. questions/statements.
Mr. Post said he would like to make a statement. He said he was hoping the Board would be willing to pass a Local Law to change the residency requirement for the Deputy Superintendent (in his understanding the Deputy is the Interim Superintendent in this situation).
Mr. Robbins said the town board has the authority to pass that type of local law.
Mr. Pfeil said he would hesitate to change the residency requirement for the Deputy when it appears it would be difficult to change the residency requirement for the Superintendent.
Mr. Post said they would like to have the smoothest transition and unfortunately the best and most qualified candidate is not a town resident. He said that is why they would like a local law to allow the Deputy position to be filled by a non-resident.
Mr. Pfeil said the board must look out for the township on a long-term basis and not to create rules for today that don’t extend into tomorrow that could cause problems in the future.
Mr. Senske said the only position that can be changed by local law without a referendum vote is the Deputy position and not the Superintendent.
Mr. Sena asked if the Deputy position is changed to allow a non-resident to serve, how long can that person serve in the position (till the next election?).
Mr. Yates asked what the timeline to adopt a local law on residency of the Deputy Sup’t. would be.
Mr. Robbins said the process would take time and probably until at least the October board meeting. Mr. Senske said it might give that Deputy time to consider moving to the town.
Mr. Robbins said it does not make sense for the town to go to extraordinary effort to make changes to accommodate an individual.
Mr. Post said if the town is interested in doing what is best for the town in the future, broadening the pool of qualified candidates for potential Superintendent would make more sense than putting someone unqualified into the position just because they are a resident.
Mr. Pfeil said that is why we have elections and anyone, even those who are not qualified, can run for that position.
Mr. Sena said if the town is looking for the best outcome the criteria should be experience. He said you would not ask your lowest level experienced man to run your business in your absence. He said with all the options brought forward, the town could change the law on residency of the Deputy but then we would have to appoint a Superintendent and it could not be the Deputy. He said personally he would like to have the Deputy hold the position until the next election, but that is over a year away.
Mr. Post said he is currently the Deputy and stated his main reason for not wanting to pursue the position of Deputy or Superintendent is he feels unable to fulfill the requirement of hours after 2:30. He said that would not be fair to the town. Mr. Post said that is why he is resigning as Deputy.
Mr. Pugh asked who is being considered for the Deputy/Superintendent position.
Mrs. Ortman said he would know when the board made a solid decision.
It was discussed that until resignations are received it is moot.
Mr. Sena stated that he supports Ryan Hinsdale because of his experience but at this time our hands are tied.
Mr. Hinsdale said he is not asking for any special treatment. He said he has never discussed salary, benefits or anything of that nature related to the position. He said the Highway M.E.O.’s are like his family and his interest in the position is to make sure they are safe. He also said he has 20 years of experience in this field. He said he appreciates the board, and everyone present and wanted to make clear he does not want special treatment.
Mr. Senske said Mr. Strickland had brought a gentleman to a meeting to introduce who is not an employee but is a resident of the town and was interested in the Superintendent position.
Mr. Pugh asked what would happen if all eligible highway employees declined the Superintendent position.
Mr. Robbins said the town board would have the authority to appoint a Highway Superintendent. Mr. Yates said he is very concerned about safety and would certainly not want any employees to get hurt. He stated the board is in a quandary at this time and no decision will be make tonight.
Mr. Karlson said as a resident and employee of the highway he agrees that Mr. Hinsdale is the most qualified person to have the leadership role. He said from a biblical perspective he feels we must respect
authority and if we are asked to take a leadership role even though we may not feel qualified we would do the best we could. He again stated that Mr. Hinsdale is the most qualified person for the position.
- MOTION # 133 OF 2021
ON A MOTION MADE BY MRS. ORTMAN, SECONDED BY MR. SENSKE AND NONE BEING OPPOSED, THE MEETING WAS ADJOURNED AT 7:05 PM.
- MOTION # 134 OF 2021
MR. SENSKE MOTIONED THAT THE BOARD ENTER INTO EXECUTIVE SESSION AT 7:06 PM TO DISCUSS THE EMPLOYMENT HISTORY OF A PARTICULAR PERSON. MRS. ORTMAN SECONDED. YES (5): SENA, ORTMAN, SENSKE, PFEIL, YATES. NO (0). THE MOTION WAS CARRIED.
- MOTION # 135 OF 2021
MR. SENSKE MOTIONED TO RE-OPEN THE MEETING AT 7:35 PM. MR. SENSKE SECONDED. YES (5): SENA, ORTMAN, SENSKE, PFEIL, YATES. NO (0). THE MOTION WAS CARRIED.
Mr. Yates said no decisions can be made tonight as we have no resignation from Mr. Strickland, but at this time there are 3 options:
1. Make a change by Local Law
2. Appoint Mr. Carlson
3. Go outside the Highway Department to make an appointment
- MOTION # 136 OF 2021
MR. SENA MOTIONED TO ADJOURN THE MEETING AT 7:40 PM. MRS. ORTMAN SECONDED. YES (5): SENA, ORTMAN, SENSKE, PFEIL, YATES. NO (0). THE MOTION WAS CARRIED.