Council member’s employee status violates village charter
Buckeye Lake Village Council Member Arletta (Cricket) Ruton is ineligible to serve on council and should either resign or be immediately removed from her elected position. Ruton stated at the July 9 council meeting that her position at the fire department qualifies her as a “village employee.” In addition to her monthly salary as a council member, Ruton received $369.96 in 2011 from the fire department and $471.20 in 2010 according to the payment register provided by the village fiscal officer. These payments obviously create a conflict of interest.
According to the village charter in Section 3.02 Eligibility, “Members of Council shall not hold any other appointed or elected public office with the village or other employment with the village during a term….” The charter also reads, “Any member of Council who ceases to possess or who violates any of the qualifications contained in this Charter may be removed from office as provided herein.”
At the July 9 council meeting, resident Donna Thompson questioned the mayor as to why resident (and fire department volunteer in training) Missy Miller was driving the village water department truck. Mayor Rick Baker responded, “Well, there’s a question as to whether she IS a village employee.” Thompson asked, “Under what status?” Baker responded, “As a part-time, a part-time fire …fire department.” Thompson asked, “Is she a member?” Council Member Ruton jumped in, “Yes!”
Donna finished her question to the mayor, “Or is she just a volunteer?” Baker said, “Well, it’s the volunteers that drive the fire trucks. I’m hesitating a little bit in that I really didn’t want her to drive. I thought I had told them not to do that … but I’ll check into that to make sure. Thompson responded, “Well it’s just for the sake of the village. Baker commented, “Yeah. But I feel that she COULD if she …. I think she really ought to drive FIRE EQUIPMENT if she’s driving something … if she’s allowed to.”
Then, he asked if Council Member Ruton could respond. Ruton said, “In setting out the (orange) cones, the fire department along with the street department you know, we’ve ALWAYS done that. And, you know, we’ve always taken turns DOING that. I mean, there’s never been a problem BEFORE. So….” Thompson responded, “There’s a problem when it can be a liability against the village!”
And the final statement on the subject came from Council Member Ruton, “But we’re all, I mean at least I WAS TOLD as a volunteer firefighter paramedic, I’m a village employee! So…”
It appears, depending on what some people want for themselves, their status changes. If they want to serve as an elected official on council while receiving compensation for runs, they claim “volunteer” status. However, when they get caught or try to defend their comrades who are caught using village equipment, suddenly they jump to “employee” status.
Only in Buckeye Lake can some people have their cake and eat it too! The sad thing this dialogue reveals is that Mayor Rick Baker is no more informed than Ruton herself!
Do we have any consistent and enforced policies? Or do the powers to be just make it up as they go along?
These quotations were transcribed verbatim from the audio tape of the July 9 council meeting available at the village office.