(Posted Jan. 17, 2019)
By Amanda Ensinger, Staff Writer
Tempers flared at the Jan. 14 Mount Sterling village council meeting, resulting in one council member walking out of the meeting.
The night got off to a rocky start when council members argued about whether to start the meeting with a prayer.
“In order to change the format of the meeting, there should be an amendment to change the rules of council,” said Rebecca Burns, council member. “I was surprised we weren’t presented with this because the format of the meetings has changed.”
Some council members said they were not comfortable with including prayer in a public meeting.
“I want to make sure there is a separation between church and state,” said Tom Ward, council member. “I am not comfortable participating in this and will excuse myself.”
Burns, Ward and Tammy Vansickle voted against starting the meeting with a prayer, while Lowell Anderson, Becky Martin and David Timmons voted for it. Mayor Billy Martin broke the tie, voting in favor of including a prayer.
Ward excused himself from the meeting during the prayer.
Afterwards, Misty Vance, the village utilities clerk, addressed council about accusations made against her at a previous council meeting.
“I was not in attendance at the last meeting and there were a few comments made about me that I would like to address,” Vance said. “One of the comments was a question from council member Tammy Vansickle’s husband about overtime being paid to me. I am not paid overtime, and several council members here could have stated that because they approve my time, including Tammy.”
Vance also addressed an accusation by Ron Vansickle that insinuated she and Mayor Martin were engaging in in appropriate activities. At the last council meeting, Ron Vansickle asked the mayor why he worked late hours with Vance.
At the Jan. 14 meeting, Tammy Vansickle said she would not take a stand on comments her family members made.
“I’m not defending or criticizing a family member,” Vansickle said. “I am not going to address comments a family member said and will abstain from that conversation.”
Vance said Vansickle’s duties as a council member should include clarifying information she knows is false, referring to the overtime pay accusation.
“It is your job to divulge information to the public and offer explanations for questions,” Vance said. “I’m not asking you to speak against a family member, I’m asking you to do your job. You approve my time sheets and know I don’t get paid for overtime.”
Also at the meeting, Mayor Martin and Ward got into a heated exchange related to complaints from residents about village staff. Recently, a resident complained that Vance did not answer their phone calls to discuss their utility bill.
“I took a complaint from a resident and gave it to Mayor Martin,” Ward said. “I’m sick of delivering reports to him and nothing happening.”
Mayor Martin said it is not council’s responsibility to try to reprimand employees.
“Council members do not write letters for my employees and request they are put into their personnel file,” Martin said. “I write those letters and decide what goes into employees’ files.”
Ward then walked away from his council seat.
“Someone needs to stand up for the people,” Ward said on his way out. “I’ll sit in the audience for the rest of the meeting and take the night off.”