WAYNESFIELD — In the final and third reading, the Waynesfield Village Council made a surprise decision to drop it’s village administrator in favor of returning to a Board of Public Affairs at it’s council meeting held July 31.
However, the decision was contested for legality and may have to be voted on again later.
At a special meeting held July 23, the council went into an executive session to discuss personnel. The special meeting was called to hold the second reading of an ordinance to abolish the position of village administrator, currently held by Fred Rowe, and returning to a locally elected Board of Public Affairs to manage projects in the village.
The vote ended in a 3-3 vote, with councilors Bill Motter, Dick Hardin and Sharon Ewing voting to make the change, while councilors Rich Libby, Vickie Zimmerman and Glen Valenti voted to keep the village administrator.
In the final vote, Valenti switched his vote to removing the village administrator position.
At the July 31 meeting, Libby submitted a letter questioning the legality of the July 23 executive session. A third party will be appointed to investigate the claims, along with allegations of a hostile work environment for village employees created by Hardin and Motter.
Motter had long advocated returning to the Board of Public Affairs. At a recent council meeting, he said he would be in favor of bringing the matter to a referendum vote and let the residents decide whether to keep an administrator. He also said he has been unfairly tagged as a ring leader of the four votes to get rid of the position.
“There have been accusations that we are taking the town in the wrong direction,” Motter said. “But look downtown. Dayton Safe Grain is gone. The barber shop is gone. The pizza shop is gone. Who is taking it in the wrong direction?”
While favoring the board of affairs, Motter said he would respect voters’ decision if a referendum turned out in favor of bringing back an administrator.
“I would want certain qualifications put in place to make sure we had a qualified person,” Motter said.
Mayor Mike Ridenour said that bringing back the board of public affairs was a step back for the village and the move was a vendetta against the village because Motter and Hardin had been released from positions in the village several years ago.
“Both are looking for self-satisfaction,” Ridenour said. “As far as Ewing and Valenti, I believe they were taken in by Motter and Hardin to vote to do away with the administrator’s position. These four councilors had a chance to do good things for the people of the village but chose to go against the people’s will. Many residents voiced their concerns but were totally ignored.”
Councilors voting to axe the position have said money can be saved by the village on the position’s salary. They said that with salary and benefits it cost about $70,000 a year to employ Rowe. Ridenour said the village still loses because of the ability to receive grant dollars and provide overall better service to the residents with a single administrator.