EDMORE — Village President Chet Guild waited until almost an hour into Monday night’s meeting to drop the bomb.
A woman in the audience questioned why the Edmore Village Council had skipped over the manager’s report on the meeting agenda.
“At this time, according to the contract, we do not have a manager,” Guild responded.
Village Manager Neil Rankin, who sat next to Guild, listened without comment. So did Rankin’s attorney, Thomas Hausmann of Mount Pleasant, who sat in the audience of 50-plus people.
The somewhat surprising statement was the latest offering into what has become weeks worth of drama in the small village.
The controversy stems from a 4-minute-long council meeting on June 30, at which the council voted 4-2 to not extend Rankin’s contract. Guild and councilmen Eddie Adams, Chuck Burr and Jerry Rasmussen approved the motion, while councilwomen Bonnie Ashbaugh and Karen Deja — both of whom say they were “blindsided” by the motion — opposed the vote. Councilman Art Schuitema was absent from that meeting due to illness.
Ashbaugh called for a special council meeting July 7 in the hopes of hearing her council colleagues explain their vote. However, Adams, Burr, Guild and Rasmussen failed to show, so the meeting instead turned into a townhall-style gathering during which residents voiced their questions and concerns about the village council.
Before public comment had even begun at Monday night’s regular meeting, Guild tried to squelch any opportunity for the community to ask questions about the ongoing issue.
Guild began the meeting by informing the audience the council would not be entertaining any questions about Rankin’s contract, the reason being that Rankin’s attorney was present at the meeting and the village’s attorney was not (the village does not currently have an attorney).
“I do not feel that we need to discuss the terms of his contract or the results of his renewal or nonrenewal,” Guild said. “If that’s what you came for, I’m sorry, but we’re not going to discuss it.”
Later on during the meeting, Burr was asked to give a report on the Personnel Committee, of which he is a member along with Ashbaugh and Deja. Burr said the Personnel Committee hasn’t met recently.
“I would like the village to get an opinion on that June 30th meeting,” Burr said. “I’d like the village to contact attorneys and find out about this contract.”
“I would like to discuss the fact that I’m part of the Personnel Committee and Chuck seems to have taken over making decisions for the Personnel Committee without consulting with Karen or I,” Ashbaugh interjected. “I do not think that he should be doing that without us being part of the decision making.”
“What’s the goal?” added Schuitema of Burr’s proposal to contact an attorney. “What are we looking to resolve?”
“I guess there seems to be some questions here about the legality of it and there’s accusations being made about private meetings taking place over hamburgers,” Guild responded.
Ashbaugh pointed out that Rankin’s contract requires at least five votes and a hearing before terminating his position.
“Do you have copy of the contract, Bonnie?” Guild asked.
“Yes, I do,” Ashbaugh answered.
“Then you need to read it,” Guild responded.
“I did read it,” Ashbaugh declared.
“I’m not going to get into it,” Guild said. “I know what the contract says.”
The council then voted 4-2 to hire an attorney to look into the matter. Adams, Burr, Guild and Rasmussen voted “yes” while Ashbaugh and Schuitema voted “no.” Deja was absent from Monday’s meeting.
As the meeting neared its end, a woman in the audience asked about the manager’s report being skipped over on the agenda, which was when Guild informed everyone present that the village does not have a manager at this time.
“That should have been stated at the beginning of this so we all knew what agenda we approved,” Schuitema objected.
“Art, I’m not going to debate this with you,” Guild said. “We cannot recognize him as village manager.”
“His name appears on this agenda that we all approved,” Schuitema noted.
“I didn’t put it on there,” Guild said.
The bewildered audience laughed in disbelief.
Ashbaugh lodged an official complaint against Guild’s claim that the village has no manager, saying she agreed with Schuitema’s point about the agenda.
“We must have different contracts,” said Ashbaugh, referring to the village manager’s contract.
“Bonnie, I’m not going to sit here and debate it with you,” Guild responded.
The meeting adjourned with the issue still unresolved.
“Residents are coming to the meetings with one question and there’s no answers,” Rankin told The Daily News afterward. “Everyone has the same question on their mind. We’re just waiting on the answer part.”