Appointees to Wellington advisory boards and committees can now be removed at the will of their appointing council member after the Wellington Village Council voted Tuesday to give final approval to the change.
In a 4-1 vote, council members approved the second reading of an ordinance that will allow council members to remove their own appointees without cause. Councilwoman Anne Gerwig was the lone dissenter.
“I think this is putting undue pressure on our appointments,” she said.
The issue arose after a March 5 meeting of the Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board, when then-Board Member Marcia Radosevich gave a Nazi-style salute to a staff member. Despite public outcry for her to be removed, the only way to do so was by a majority council vote.
Radosevich ultimately resigned and apologized, but the incident left council members looking for more control.
Councilman Howard Coates said he supported the measure because of such incidents.
“It’s not about removing someone who agrees or disagrees with my position, but about having some control over our appointees so we can react if something occurs that is objectionable,” he said.
Gerwig noted that “at large” appointees — those who are appointed by the council as a whole — now have a stronger voice because they must still be removed by a council majority, which tips the balance on boards and committees.
“They have more staying power,” she said. “It makes me wonder if I wouldn’t rather be an at-large appointee at the end of this.”
During public comment, resident Houston Meigs called the ordinance “Orwellian.”
“It bothers me that a member of our village committees can be terminated just because his or her opinion is in conflict with the [council member who appointed them],” he said. “That’s what this says: If you don’t agree with me, I can fire you.”
He called the measure “intimidating” and said it might dissuade people from volunteering who have experience and knowledge to share.
“The reason we serve as committee people is because we add value, insight and knowledge in areas you think you need as a council person,” Meigs said.
Just because someone does not agree with a council member’s position doesn’t mean they don’t add valuable information to the discussion, he said.
“I don’t think you should expect that everything said by a committee person is going to jive with what you believe or want to hear,” Meigs said. “Things might be more constructive if it’s not what you want to hear. Maybe it will lead to a better long-term solution. I think this is very poor, very intimidating and a little Orwellian.”
Coates said he wasn’t afraid of contrary opinions but wanted more ability to remove problem committee members.
“I always say that I value the contrarian as much as I do the people who agree with me,” he said. “But I think representatives on a committee are representatives of the individual who appointed them. If something is untoward or not what we expected, we as the appointing council member should have the ability to remove them.”
He pointed to the Radosevich issue, which caused a public outcry when Councilman Matt Willhite could not remove her from the board without a council majority vote.
“History has shown there is a need for this to avoid long-term festering issues,” Coates said. “If we had something like this then, there wouldn’t have been as much public outcry.”
Willhite made a motion to approve the measure, which passed 4-1 with Gerwig opposed.