When the Oak Creek Town Board went into executive session Wednesday night, the board pledged that no business would be conducted following the closed session.
Still, some 25 residents hung around for more than two hours just to make sure the board did what it said it would. Such is the level of mistrust in this town of 849.
There is plenty for residents to be concerned about. Since the new Town Board was elected in April, the board has:
n Gotten rid of Town Manager Ray Leibensperger and eliminated his position in a move the board said would save the town thousands of dollars.
n Hired the town's former assistant treasurer Jo Dee Stordal, who leveled numerous accusations at the former town administration when she resigned in March as its new treasurer. Stordal's husband, newly elected board member David Stordal, did not recuse himself when the board discussed hiring his wife and awarding her a significant raise from her previous salary.
n Created a $31,200 public works position, and without ever posting the job opening, voted to hire a friend of Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman. Rodeman did not recuse herself from the discussion and decision to hire the man. The man is no longer working for the town. There are conflicting reports over whether he was fired or left of his volition.
n And the board voted to give Rodeman $500 to pay for damage ostensibly done to her yard last year by one of the town's public works employees. Rodeman participated in the discussion.
But all of the Town Board's actions pale in comparison to its handling of the police force. The situation would be comical if the safety of the town's residents weren't at stake. When Police Chief Tom Ling resigned in June, the board chose to appoint Jason Lunnen as the interim chief, even though Lunnen had less than six months on the force. The town then suspended Sgt. Dave Miller pending a psychological evaluation.
Within two weeks, Lunnen fired Miller. Apparently, Miller's dismissal was announced in the media before he was informed. Turns out, Lunnen wasn't in position to fire anyone. He has failed the state's law enforcement certification test three times and isn't allowed to serve as a Colorado police officer, much less a police chief. With Miller and Lunnen both gone, the town turned to former officers for help. Eileen Rossi, a reserve officer, initially agreed to serve as interim chief but changed her mind two days later.
Now, the town has no police force to speak of. Leibensperger is suing the city for back pay he says he is owed but that the Town Board has voted not to pay him. Miller's attorney has threatened legal action over the way his dismissal was handled.
Oak Creek's new Town Board has created a heck of a mess in just four months. Who knows how much it will cost taxpayers to clean up that mess, but here's betting it will be more than the $50,000 the town was paying a town manager.
Rodeman and the new board members ran on platforms that they would bring change to Town Hall. They have done that. Unfortunately for the town's residents, the change hasn't been for the better.