ST. PARIS – The village council took action to remove the village’s income tax credit during Monday’s meeting.
During the Dec. 5 meeting, council discussed multiple options for the future of police services after a police levy failed in November. These options included putting the levy on the May 2017 ballot, removing the income tax credit and hiring the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office to provide law enforcement services for the village.
After weighing their options, council opted to move forward with looking at rescinding the tax credit.
On Monday, Village Administrator Joe Sampson said while council had discussed wanting to rescind the tax over three readings, it would create a nightmare for the Regional Income Tax Agency (RITA).
“If we do this as a first reading today, then you do a second in January, third in January it waits 30 days ‘til the end of February when it would become law,” Sampson said. “That means that for fiscal year 2017 there are 10 months worth of income tax that would be paid so there’s going to be lots of headaches there to try to collect that and get the word out. They ask that if you have an inkling that this is what you’re going to do and this is the direction you want to go to pass it by an emergency and be done with it so it begins right at the beginning of the year and it does not create any issues.”
Mayor Joe Reneer agreed with rescinding the tax credit through an emergency measure.
“We are to the point and we have been surviving for the past seven or eight years on a very minimal budget in order to keep the police department,” Reneer said. “In order to operate smoothly and effectively to have the funds to hire the police chief to operate the police department effectively and get everything where we want it to go I feel as though the tax credit is the only route that will get us there.”
The village has not had a police chief since July following the retirement of Chief Jim Pence.
Prior to council voting, Reneer said if the action passed the village could hire a police chief in January because they would have the funds to do so.
Council unanimously approved voting on the issue through an emergency measure 5-0. Council member Tyler Adkins was not present at the meeting.
Council then unanimously approved 100 percent removal of the income tax credit.
Village council discussed implementing policies for meeting etiquette following comments made about village employees during a previous meeting.
During the mayor’s notes portion of the meeting, Sampson stated he wanted to file an official complaint against Adkins for his behavior and comments he made during the Dec. 5 meeting.
Sampson said during the Nov. 21 meeting, he advised council that village employees would be off on the Friday after Thanksgiving as the village had previously done. Sampson noted no one on council asked any questions about this and all of council was present.
“On the Dec. 5 meeting, Mr. Adkins asked if the employees who took the day off had filed any leave slips,” Sampson said. “(Village fiscal officer) Richard (Ford) had said no that they hadn’t and as the conversation continued Mr. Adkins called our employees thieves for taking those days off.”
Sampson contended Adkins did not have all of the names of the employees correct who were affected by the day off. He proceeded to defend village employees.
“I want to reiterate what great employees we have here now,” Sampson said. “They’ve done everything that I have ever asked them to do plus more. If I ask them to come in they don’t come in and complain that ‘well I need overtime for that or I want this or I need to take that day off’ – they don’t ever ask for that they bust their ass to come in and do a good job for this town.
“To have a council member call our employees thieves because I gave them the day off is absolutely unacceptable to me. I just can’t stand that.”
Sampson contended this is another example of Adkins not knowing what his job duties as a councilperson are and that his sole purpose of being on council is revenge for being fired.
Adkins previously worked as the village’s street commissioner from 2003 until he was terminated from the position in June 2015. He was then voted in as a council member in November 2015.
Sampson continued by saying Adkins has turned him into the state auditor’s office, which has cost the village thousands of dollars.
“The complaints that he turned in (to the state auditor’s office) has cost the village several thousands of dollars to go in to find out what he’s complained about, except there was nothing wrong other than moving some money around there’s nothing illegal that’s been done,” Sampson said.
In October, an audit for the village released by the state auditor’s office on the years 2014 and 2015 notes a finding for recovery was issued. The audit states parks and land employee Diana Wallen received $801 more than the approved amount in 2014 and 2015 combined and former fiscal officer Cathlyn Adkins was overpaid $1,608 last year.
The audit states the findings for recovery were repaid in full to the village in June.
Sampson said Adkins blamed him for the bad audit because of money being moved around.
“I have a copy of the audit. Anybody can read the audit. There’s nothing in that audit that mentions me that I’ve done anything illegal or anything wrong all of those things have been fixed,” Sampson said. “But Mr. Adkins wants to keep going. I understand that he’s called the ethics commission, he’s called the attorney general, he’s turned me in to the EPA, he’s turned me in to homeland security and not too lately now it’s the FBI and most likely others – that’s all the places that I’ve been turned in to none of which have proved out to be anything that I’ve done wrong.”
Sampson continued by saying Adkins has also harassed Ford and village employees. At village council meetings, Sampson said the village has had to have police present because of concern for safety of everyone due to Adkins’ behavior.
“He comes to meetings with accusations but no proof, he makes statements about different topics but also has no proof,” Sampson said. “He’s personally called me a thief, a liar, a cheat and has physically threatened me on a couple of occasions. Now I believe there’s enough evidence right now to file for a restraining order against Mr. Adkins as well as a lawsuit for slander, harassment and defamation of character and whatever else it takes to make this stop. I believe it’s the village’s job to protect its employees and right now after that last meeting it’s obvious that our employees are at risk with Mr. Adkins.”
Sampson then proceeded to read a resignation letter from Ford dated Dec. 14. In the letter, Ford stated he first notified Sampson of his intentions on Dec. 6.
“I am resigning because council meetings have become a place for personal attacks against me and other employees and I no longer wish to be in that situation as it puts undue stress on me,” the letter states. “The most recent being the accusation of theft for taking a paid day off the day after Thanksgiving.”
Within the letter, Ford states he is willing to continue helping the village continue with financial aspects of the job through Jan. 31, 2017, but would not be able to attend council meetings. Council unanimously moved to accept Ford’s resignation effective Jan. 31, 2017, and gave Sampson permission to seek a new fiscal officer.
Attorney Andrew Esposito, the village’s attorney, was in attendance during the meeting and discussed multiple options for how council can address behavior during council meetings, including expelling a council member from a meeting if they violate meeting rules.
Later in the meeting council approved a motion to write a policy for appropriate council meeting etiquette and behavior.
In other action:
•Council member Terry Ervin II said the village needs to form a tax review board and is seeking members to sit on the board. He noted three people need to sit on the board and Reneer asked residents to bring names for potential candidates by the next meeting.
•Reneer said if Champaign County is under a level two or higher snow emergency the night of a village council meeting the meeting will be cancelled.
•The next American Legion St. Paris Post 148 meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Jan. 11, 2017, at the municipal building.
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.