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December 13, 2017

Candidate Questions Special Meeting


A candidate for Luther Town Board is calling on the Board to cancel Thursday’s Special Board Meeting saying it is unnecessary and poses concern.


Paxton Cavin posted her statement today.

“The point of special meetings is to take care of business that comes up but can’t wait until a regular meeting.  The regular meeting is next Tuesday,” she wrote.

The Town Board posted notice of the Special Meeting on Tuesday, to comply with Open Meetings Laws to post special meetings 48 hours before a meeting. The agenda of the Special Meeting deals with hiring a couple of staff for the Town office following the resignation of Crystal Wilson who gave notice a couple of weeks ago, and left the Town’s employ last Friday.

Since Wilson’s departure, Town Board members have volunteered in the office, answering the phone and helping LPWA Utilities Clerk Lena Wright with tasks that were performed by Wilson. It’s clear that no one was cross-trained on the various tasks for the Town office or the court clerk position. For example, there was difficulty in sending out a mass email for this special meeting notice with the agenda attached, to comply with the spirit of transparency in Open Meetings Laws. Posting and emailing the agendas is a job presumably handled by Town Clerk/Treasurer Kim Bourns who is paid $200 for the position (and was unopposed to win a four-year term), but Wright handled that task this week.

Current Board members have also interviewed candidates this week for the office manager and court clerk job, held by Wilson. The job was advertised on Facebook, without listing qualifications. Some board members have wondered whether the timing is right to hire now, since it is less than a month away from a Town election in which four of the five trustee seats are open. 

It was just one year ago when the town was in the same position of being without office help when former office manager and Town Clerk Laura McCuddy resigned. 

To fix that issue last March, the board combined the Court Clerk position that Wilson held with the office manager job and gave her a raise. The Court Clerk presides over municipal court that is held about once a month at Town Hall where those fighting a ticket or with other issues have their day before the judge. According to the town budget, the town banks on $240,000 a year on fines and forfeitures, (incidentally the town budget was reviewed on candidate Jenni White’s campaign Facebook page).

Wilson handled both jobs, office manager and court clerk, for a year. Now the board wants to separate the office job with the court clerk job. According to the agenda, there’s an effort to split the positions and to change the Office “Manager” to an office “Coordinator without supervisory responsibilities.” It’s unclear who would be supervised, since the other Town employees work for LPWA, the fire department or the police department. It is clear that the “office coordinator” answers to five bosses, the Town trustees, and is the primary contact person for the public on Town matters.

Cavin questions the rush for the meeting, and even whether the board has officially advertised for the vacancy or officially separated the duties.

“At the end of the day, we must ask ourselves, why the hurry?  Are we in a hurry to hire a person (or persons) before the election?  Are we in such a hurry that this cannot wait five days until the regular board meeting? I call upon the current Trustees to cancel this special meeting and bring up these issues during the regular board meeting next week,” said Cavin. 

She also said the meeting’s timing is inconsiderate given that the School Board called for a Special Meeting the same evening with the important task of hiring a new superintendent. “Since the discussion of the school superintendent will be taking place, it is imperative that residents and parents have the ability to attend that meeting, if they choose.

Andy McDaniels in the middle.

Cavin’s statement drew a response from fellow board candidate Andy McDaniels, who was appointed to an unexpired term on the board last summer and is running for a four-year term.

“While I understand Paxton’s concerns, I disagree with her. I feel the current town Board should have already hired a replacement for Crystal Wilson. Currently our Water Clerk Lena Wright is attempting to do the jobs of three people and some of the town council members have been pitching in to help. I feel very strongly that this is not fair to Lena and it’s not fair for the town. Our townspeople should expect that the town’s business will be conducted in a professional and timely manner. It’s unfortunate that it happens to be on the same night as the school board meeting,” said McDaniels.

The Special Town Board meeting is scheduled at 7:30 pm on March 9.

The school board Special Meeting begins at 7pm. The Luther Register will cover both meetings, and will FB Live what we can.

The Town Election is April 4.

Mark your calendars to attend a Luther Town Candidate Forum on March 21, 2017, at Broken Horn Ranch. #lutherlocal

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One Response “Candidate Questions Special Meeting”

  1. Jenni White
    March 9, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    While I agree to some extent with Paxton here – no, Luther Town Trustees should not hold special meetings unless there is a clear Town emergency – I also agree with Board Member McDaniels.

    It is apparent that Crystal Wilson gave the Town the standard two weeks notice before leaving her job. Did the Town post the job vacancy that same day? It should have. It should also have included all the requirements for Crystal’s job in order to secure the most qualified candidate, which it apparently did not.

    In addition, an agenda item for “consideration and discussion of submitted resume’s” for the position should have been given to the Town Clerk immediately, with a Town Board Meeting scheduled for the following week to take up the issue of hiring to fill Crystal’s position. This would satisfy 2 requirements – the required 48 hour public posting notice and the maintenance of institutional knowledge.

    We have had incredible employee turnover in our Town Hall in a short number of years and because of this we have had an even more incredible loss of institutional knowledge. It’s great that Town Board members are pitching in to help out in the office, but this shouldn’t be necessary. One of the reasons for a standard two week notice period is to allow the employer to find a replacement who can be trained by the outgoing employee, thereby preserving the institutional knowledge of the business, town or organization. It’s a bit hard for Crystal to now train her replacement when her last day of employment with the Town was last Friday.

    While I believe the Town should have already hired Crystal’s replacement, I disagree that there should be talk at this time of splitting the position. Yes, it may be better for the Town to have two separate employees – Town Clerk and Office Manager – but now is not the time to try to implement such a scheme. I feel that should be done after the Town has employed a replacement for Crystal and after the Town Board elections are over when there is more time to fully explore all the angles of such a change.

Have a thought? Please share. And thanks.

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