Less than two weeks after returning from a medical leave of absence Clintonville Mayor Judy Magee has come under fire from the city council.
Three items placed on the agenda for the council meeting, Tuesday, Dec. 9 pertained to Magee’s leave of absence or action taken by Magee.
Alderwoman Mary Beth Kuester had two of those items placed on the agenda. The first pertained to the city’s policy regarding a leave of absence for elected officials. The second was about the mayor’s readiness to resume duties.
Council President Jeannie Schley had the other agenda item placed on the agenda, which pertained to TIF 3 expenditures.
Kuester said she and Aldermen John Wilson and Jim Krause requested to have a special council meeting the prior week, but a quorum could not be reached. The items were then placed on the agenda for this meeting.
Kuester said the city doesn’t have a leave of absence policy for elected officials. She asked if the Personnel Committee should research a policy.
Keuster also said residents have asked how Magee would know when she would be ready to return to her mayoral duties.
Magee said the date she had given for her return was a goal. She also reminded the council about HIPPA laws when referring to the discussions of health.
Regarding a leave policy, Alderwoman Gloria Dunlavy said she thought the city had something in place that if an elected official missed more than two meetings a year they would probably be replaced. She wasn’t sure if it was a policy or binding in any way.
Schley said she also thought the city had something in place.
Later in the discussion Clintonville City Attorney April Dunlavy and Clintonville Clerk Treasurer Peggy Johnson indicated they were unaware of such a policy.
“I really believe it’s up to the electorate to decide if those people are fit. It has nothing to do with how many meetings they make. The people who voted them in should have the ultimate say,” said Alderman Phil Rath.
April Dunlavy acknowledged the recent leave was not handled well, and could be handled better in the future if it were to occur again.
A motion to refer the leave of elected officials to the Personnel Committee was passed 6-2. Rath and Alderwoman Lois Bressette voted no.
Regarding TIF 3 expenditures, Schley said the council approved the construction of a new road as well as sewer and water in that area in the TIF 3 district. But she said the city received a bill on Aug. 15 for $203,000 for lights along the road. She said the council did not approve that. She said Magee approved that.
Magee acknowledged she approved the expenditure.
“No one had thought when they were building the road that there should be street lights there. That came up as a very last thought,” Magee said.
She said she called Todd Taves, who handles the TIF money for Clintonville, to ask how to get it done before expenditures could no longer come out of TIF 3. Magee said she was made aware of the need for lights two days prior to the deadline for expenditures to be paid by TIF 3. She said Taves told her the city needed to get two bids, and construction could take place through March of 2015.
Magee acknowledged she had the check made out, but when she found out that as long as the bids were obtained by the deadline, it would meet the deadline requirement. She said she then asked Mandy Kriesel, who was the Public Finance Manager at the time, to void the check.
Magee said that she recently found out that the check was not voided and that it was brought to the attention of members of the council while she was on a medical leave of absence.
Ultimately the check was voided.
Schley said that Magee didn’t have the authority to have the check made out.
A long discussion ensured about the expenditure approved by the mayor.
April Dunlavy said it was an illegal act.
She was then asked about the ramifications.
“The legal issue here, once the check was written, the money was spent, that’s what happened,” said April Dunlavy. “By statute the mayor has no authority to spend funds without prior council approval. … The minute that happened, that was illegal.”
April Dunlavy said a lot of wrong steps were followed in an attempt to do good for the city. She said there probably wouldn’t be any ramifications if the city moves forward. But the city could be subject to a suit if a challenge was filed.
Magee made a comment to someone in the audience. Afterwards, Magee said, “What they want is for me to resign, and I’m not going to.”
Several people in the audience applauded.
After further discussion, Magee asked April Dunlavy for her recommendation.
“It would be the council’s discretion how they would want to proceed with this,” April Dunlavy said.
She said the council could refer it to the Personnel Committee.
No action was taken by the council on the matter.