MOORESVILLE — A member of the Mooresville Redevelopment Commission was effectively removed from her post Jan. 18 after members of the Mooresville Town Council did not vote to reappoint her to another term.
Now, some councilmembers are alleging that the council failed to follow its own policy for appointments to boards and commissions.
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During the council's Jan. 18 meeting, when it came time to make annual appointments to the redevelopment commission, councilman Greg Swinney nominated Erin Pipkin to the commission, which has five voting members. It is not a paid position.
When Councilman Shane Williams asked the council who Pipkin would be replacing on the commission, Councilman Tom Warthen replied, "I don't know because we still have to appoint four other members."
The council voted 3-2 to appoint Pipkin, with Williams and Councilman Jeff Cook opposing. It then voted unanimously to reappoint Dustin Stanley, who also serves on town council, as president of the redevelopment commission.
Warthen, the council president, then selected his three executive appointments: Brian Culp, Ryan Taylor and Dana Heidenreich, all of whom had already been serving on the commission. Executive appointments do not require a vote.
It wasn't until after the rest of the appointments were made that Williams realized Pipkin would be replacing Virginia Perry, who has served on the commission the past two years.
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Perry's name was not mentioned until the end of the meeting, when Williams commented that he voted against Pipkin's appointment because he felt Perry should have remained a commissioner.
Perry, who was sitting in the audience during the town council meeting, said she was caught off-guard by the council's decision.
She believes she was not reappointed because she voted against renewing a $48,620 contract with Chelsey Manns — the commission's project manager and financial consultant — at the RDC's Jan. 6 meeting.
Perry said she voted against the contract because she didn't feel Manns deserved a raise given that Nice-Pak had recently abandoned plans to build a new facility in the south side of town.
"I can't justify reducing the duties and responsibilities of a position, hers or anyone else's, and then giving them an increase in salary," Perry wrote in an email to the Reporter-Times on Jan. 7. "Do not believe the taxpayers intended for us to be so loose with their funds."
Perry believes she was not reappointed to the commission because of her dissent.
"There is no question in either my mind or anyone else's that it was payback for not approving Chelsey's contract," Perry said in a statement to the Reporter-Times.
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During that Jan. 6 meeting, Perry also expressed frustration that the shell building at the intersection of Ind. 67 and Merriman Road, which is owned by the RDC, had not been completed.
In separate interviews, Stanley and Warthen said Perry's comments and vote against renewing Manns' contract did not factor into their decision to appoint someone else to the commission.
Stanley's decision to vote on Pipkin's appointment during the Jan. 18 town council meeting appears to contradict a promise he made nearly two years ago not to vote on redevelopment commission appointments while he was sitting president of that commission.
During a meeting of the Mooresville Town Council on Feb. 4, 2020, Stanley was reappointed as president of the redevelopment commission. Cook then made a motion to appoint Perry to the redevelopment commission. There were only three members present, including Stanley and Williams, neither of whom seconded the motion. Stanley abstained from voting.
Stanley later said he abstained because of his role as president of the redevelopment commission.
"I do not believe I should be voting on the members to which I will chair, of the redevelopment commission," Stanley said at the time.
Perry was ultimately appointed by council at the following council meeting in a 3-1-1 vote in which all five members were present.
When asked why he had voted on Pipkin's appointment, Stanley said that he had not yet been reappointed as president of the redevelopment commission when he cast his vote. He also said he was cleared by legal counsel to vote.
"As long as I did not get voted in first...I was OK to vote," he said.
According to Indiana statute, redevelopment commissioners serve one year from the first day of January until they resign or are either reappointed or replaced.
Under that definition, it would appear that Stanley was still the president of the redevelopment commission when he cast his vote as a member of town council on Jan. 18.
During the RDC's Jan. 6 meeting, the commission voted unanimously to reappoint Stanley as president, Perry as vice president and Culp as secretary.
Concerns from councilmembers
The two councilmembers who voted against Pipkin's appointment, Cook and Williams, say the town council failed to follow its own policy for appointments, which was adopted in January 2020.
The policy states that councilmembers should ask appointees if they would like to serve for another term and that any vacancies should be posted on the town's website. It also states that each councilmember "individually list all the candidates who are acceptable and meet the qualifications of the applied board."
The vacancies were never publicly advertised, according to the clerk-treasurer's office.
Williams said he plans to ask the town attorney if the council followed its own policy for appointees.
"This policy was adopted to prevent what those three did," Williams said, referring to Warthen, Stanley and Swinney. "It gives the impression of cronyism."
Like Perry, Williams believes she was not reappointed because of concerns she raised about the shell building and her dissenting vote on Manns' contract.
"They didn’t follow the policy," he said. "They just wanted to put a friendly on the board."
Cook said he also expressed his concerns with the town attorney about the appointment process. He believes the council needs to remove Pipkin from the commission and start the process again.
"Warthen and Stanley have got this one wrong," Cook said. "If they want Erin over Virginia Perry, they need to follow our own rules, not go in rogue to a meeting."
Contact reporter Peter Blanchard at 765-346-2942 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @peterlblanchard.
This article originally appeared on The Reporter Times: Mooresville Town Council members at odds over appointment process