The Only Option Left to Correct an Injustice

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The last week has been nothing if not eventful.

Over the last two years, Clark Hopkins, the Chairman of the Personnel Committee, has repeatedly demonstrated animosity toward our Village Clerk.  A series of emails and statements that he has made in Village Board meetings have indicated that he simply does not like her.  And recently, his out-of-town son-in-law has made a series of freedom of information requests asking for detailed information on various aspects of her work record. 

There is nothing illegal about any of this.  But it is my view, and I believe the view of anyone who believes in fundamental fairness in the workplace, that Clark should not be planning to conduct the annual performance review of the Clerk.  Yet that is exactly what he intends to do.  Most people understand that lawyers, judges, and others in public office will quickly recuse themselves from dealing with an issue where there is any appearance of bias in their position.  I believe that the same should happen in the Performance Review process when a Trustee has demonstrated negative bias toward an employee. 

With that in mind, at the April 14th meeting, we put “Personnel Review Process” on the agenda.  At the meeting I suggested that we could go into Executive Session (which is permitted for this topic), so that we could present the evidence of bias privately, and consider together whether Clark should recuse himself from the performance review of the Clerk.  With five other Trustees and the Mayor who could step in to take over, we could have easily fixed the problem. 

But we never had that discussion.  First, Clark made a motion to table the topic, delaying the discussion to a future meeting.  That motion passed when Mayor Mitchell broke a tie vote in his favor. 

But he and the Mayor did agree to reschedule both the Personnel Committee Meeting and the next Village Board meeting, so that all Trustees could participate in the discussion on this topic before the end of the month.  One reason for doing this in that timeframe was that Mike Gaetz would be able to participate, important since he had been here for the last two years, and seen and heard what has gone on.  The agreement to reschedule the meetings was reported at the end of a news article in the Woodford Times, which can be found at this LINK.

Changing the schedule to deal with the problem at a later meeting was a reasonable solution.  Unfortunately, however, Clark Hopkins and Mayor Mitchell each subsequently broke their promise to reschedule their respective meeting.   Clark canceled his.  So no discussion has taken place.  I leave it for you, the reader, to decide whether or not this was handled honestly.

Given this, Mike Gaetz and I concluded that the only remaining way to rectify the injustice was to bring it out into the open.  So we met with a reporter from the Woodford Times.  We presented the evidence from the past two years that demonstrates the negative bias.  The reporter explained that he would need to interview others with opposing views.  We encouraged that, so that his story would be fairly written. 

Notwithstanding everything up to this point, Mike went a step further.  He contacted the Village Attorney by email on Sunday and proposed that if something could still be worked out to correct the injustice withough airing the details in the press, that Mike believed the reporter might change the story to report a positive resolution to the problem.  The reporter had indicated that he would consider that, provided he was given enough time before his deadline on Monday afternoon.  The attorney called Mike on Monday morning, and Mike explained everything. 

The attorney waited until after the news deadline to respond to Mike by an email, which I have since read.  Instead of talking about solving the problem, the attorney ignored all that had happened up to that point, and instead criticized Mike for proposing a solution.   Who knows what was behind that?

Today Mike resigned from the Village Board.  Yes, it was symbolic, because Thursday would have been his last meeting anyway.  But in this case the symbolism is important, as a protest of what has happened in the management of the Village of Germantown Hills. 

We would have preferred to work this problem quietly within the Village Board, but that effort was blocked, twice.  I’ve served with many Village Board members for over 22 years.  I’ve never experienced deception like this prior to the 2009 election.  

Here is a link to the Woodford Times article about the problem in the online version: LINK.  

The print version of newspaper is delivered with the Wednesday Journal Star to those who subscribe to it.  If you do not subscribe, print copies are supposedly made available at locations described at this LINK.

Terry Quinn

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