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Ouster proceedings sought against 3 Rural Water District No. 1 officials

by Clarke Davis

There’s trouble on the Jefferson County Rural Water District No. 1 board and one member believes ousting three members will help solve the problem.

Member Mike Carmona has called a special meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday, May 19, at the United Methodist Church in Meriden during which he intends to call for ouster votes against Chairman Rod Bigham and two other members, Kyle Brown and Adam Petesch.

“I might not have enough votes, but we’ll see,” Carmona said.

Carmona presented each of them with letters citing violations of district policies.

He and apparently some others on the nine-member board think it is the only way to rid the district of some personality conflicts with employees that have existed since the election in February.

Bigham, a former maintenance man for the district, is accused of having a personality conflict with the current maintenance man, Tristen Charbonneau, and the office manager, René Keller.

After a 3 1/2-hour meeting Monday night, some sparring between Bigham and Charbonneau surfaced when Bigham asked the maintenance man why he hadn’t seen a water leak at a particular location and fixed it.

“I haven’t been by there,” was the answer.

“Why haven’t you been by there?” was Bighman’s response.

This was repeated a couple of times until Charbonneau told Bigham it was because he was busy cleaning up the messes he [Bigham] had left.

That brought member Bill Hilbert to point out to Bigham that there were personality issues.

“You think this is rough now, you should listen to the tapes [of former meetings],” said member Bobbie Clough. “There’s nothing to be proud of. I’m ashamed of it.”

Carmona attempted to support Charbonneau by stating that “if he had seen it, he would have fixed it” but went on to note that there is a bigger problem — a personal vendetta.

He noted that there was an attempt to get Keller—an 8 1/2-year employee—fired last month and said both are doing a good job.

“I have a right to call a special meeting . . . and I’m doing so to get you voted off the board,” Carmona told Bigham.

“Good luck,” was Bigham’s response.

“I’m sorry we have come to this. Adults need to act like it,” Clough said.

Bigham was the maintenance man for nearly 20 years. He resigned after being questioned about some of his charges to the district.

That episode was followed by the election at the annual meeting in February when 70 people attended and voted in Bigham, Brown, and Jim McMillan, nominations from the floor, replacing incumbents Earl Ross, Daryl Hammond, and John Hertlein.

Bigham told the newspaper that he has no vendetta against the two employees mentioned, he just wants them to do their jobs. He also said he did not want his old job back, although it would be easier than the one he has now [being chairman of the board].

“We have a judiciary responsibility to the patrons,” Bigham said.

He said there is nothing wrong with asking questions and expecting requests for information to be forthcoming.

On the other hand, Carmona said the office manager is very knowledgeable about her job and Tristan does “an awesome job.”

Carmona’s letter states that Bigham has called special meetings on two occasions to terminate Keller without cause or reason. He further states that Bigham has “failed to preside over meetings in a productive manner. Has created a hostile environment for office staff, contractors, and other board members. Has put RWD #1 in a destructive position as where severe potential lawsuits are possible.”

His charges against Brown and Petesch are similar except to state that they have “obvious vendetta for the office manager and operator. Trying to eliminate the person or position for unknown reasons.”

It will require five votes on the board to unseat any particular member.

“District patrons need to know that this board is in a shambles,” said Carmona, who has been a board member for 2 1/2 years.

Other board members are Jeff Brun and Mike DeWilde. DeWilde was absent Monday night.

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Posted by on May 17 2011. Filed under Government. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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