Debate over confidentiality, the roles of various village officials and the decor of the meeting room highlighted last week’s Walden Village Board meeting.
Tensions were raised when Trustee Lynn Thompson complained that certain department head reports were left out of her board meeting packet, available to trustees prior to the meeting.
“Why are parts of our packet left out?” Thompson asked, adding that there was no dialogue regarding any change in procedure.
Mayor John Ramos replied that a report had been issued by the village attorney regarding confidentiality. That report had come after a discussion over who had the authority to set the salary for the recently-hired village treasurer: the board, the manager or the mayor. That issue apparently still has not been resolved.
Ramos said reports are issued to the village manager.
“The village manager should be divulging any information that we need, and feeding us whatever information that we need to complete our jobs,” Ramos said, adding “I don’t think anything is missing.”
Thompson pressed on, insisting that reports from the village clerk and the village treasurer were missing from her board packet.
“The way we’ve gotten our packets for the five years that I’ve been on this board is not the same,” Thompson said.
Ramos said reports are generated through the village manager.
“If you want an individual report though the manager and the clerk,” Ramos said, “then it should flow through the village manager and then the village manager in turn would turn that over to us.”
“I guess my problem,” Thompson responded, “is that this was all changed and that there was a very big lack of communication. That’s disturbing to me.”
At that point, Village Manager John Revella interjected.
“If you knew something was missing from your packet, you could have asked me,” Revella said, adding that she had met with him for almost two hours on Monday without any mention of the packet.
“You know what, I was focusing on something different,” Thompson said. “I was focused on what we were doing.”
The topic resumed moments later during the public portion, when former Mayor Becky Pearson addressed the board.
"We are not a mayoral form of government,” Pearson said. “This board is a manager form of government where everyone sitting on this board has the same vote. There has not been a vote taken by this board to set the treasurer’s salary. You are not doing your duty to the village of Walden. You are not doing what is right. You are just doing what you want to do. Step up to the plate. Correct the action that should have happened in the beginning and it hasn’t happened.”
Pearson said the village manager is in charge of the department heads (i.e. police, recreation, public works). The clerk, treasurer and village manager report to the board.
“You people are in charge of the clerk and treasurer. Those reports should be coming to you.” Pearson said.
Pearson, and later former Trustees Brenda Adams and Mary Ellen Matise admonished the board for not reviewing the reports, adding that they should also be made available to the public.
“Open government is a big issue for me and I don’t see it happening,” Pearson said.
Deputy Mayor Willie Carley turned to the village attorney to ask if such reports are required by law to be made public.
“I see it as not a requirement,” Carley said, “but as a nicety.”
Village Attorney Dave Donovan said he was not aware of any requirement to include reports, but it certainly is common practice.
"I’m a little uncomfortable taking on a larger role every evening,” Donovan added. “I’d really like my role to be behind the scenes. My job is to tell you what you can and cannot do, not what you should and should not do.”
Trustee Brian Sebring offered his opinion that trustees should still get a report from department heads every two weeks.
The board also heard a presentation from Elizabeth Duffy of Girl Scout Troop 239. She is awaiting approval from the Girl Scout Council for her Gold Award Project.
Her plan is to move the photo of Col. Thomas Bradley to a more prominent location and arrange three display cases with past, present and future themes. She said the displays could be updated annually. The room is known as the Bradley Assembly Hall, named for Col Thomas Bradley, a Walden-bred Civil War hero and village benefactor to. His generosity led to the creation of the Josephine-Louise Public Library, housed in the same building, and named for his wife and daughter.
The plan was greeted with enthusiasm from the mayor and trustees but with some concern from the audience. Pearson questioned how the displays could be maintained and updated after Elizabeth went off to college or otherwise left the troop. Matise asked if artifacts belonging to the Walden Woman’s Club, currently on display, could be returned.