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Posted: 05/07/14

Village trustees disagree
on attorney appointment

Observer Staff Writer
      The annual vote to appoint Village of Romeo positions such as administrator, police chief and various inspectors met with resistance when trustees disagreed on appointing the village attorney and prosecutor.
       The Board of Trustees voted 4-2 on making the 2014 annual appointments during its April 21 meeting, with Trustees Bob Hart and Christine Malzahn dissenting. Trustee Russell Rinke was not present.
       Appointments are recommended by the village president and approved by the board. Hart said before making the approvals he wanted to address the retainer fees charged by Village Attorney Mark Clark, as he charges the village $125 an hour but charges Richmond $100 an hour. He said he would like to keep the fees open for discussion when budget talks begin.
       "I know we can get that less," he said. "That hasn't changed from last year."
       The same discussion led to a 3-4 vote in April 2013 regarding the annual appointments, with Trustees Hart, Malzahn, Mike Cregar and Matt Edwards casting the opposing votes. The board voted in favor of the appointments the following month, but only after a 3-2 vote that approved of splitting the village attorney and village prosecutor into separate appointments.
       In addition to wanting to re-examine the fees, Hart pointed out that the village prosecutor role was not listed in the 2014 annual appointments. He said he has no problem with the job that Clark does, but wished to have Clark's appointments separate so the board could discuss his fees before appointing him.
       "Once we appoint someone we can't take it back," he said.
       Lee agreed to adding Clark as village prosecutor, but said he wished to make the appointments with a single vote as opposed to voting on them separately. Excluding the village's commissions and boards, 15 appointments were up for approval.
       "I'm not going to go through every single one," he said.
       Malzahn objected to Lee's motion of appointing all at once, calling it a "strong-arm" situation. She suggested the board could come to some common ground on making the approvals.
       "In the spirit of cooperation, we're just asking for a little consideration in the latitude that gives us to say yes or no," she said.
       Clark made the same point he made last year when the topic of his fees came up ­ he will not negotiate against himself.
       "I've been doing this since 1985 and I've treated the village fairly and the village has treated me very fairly," he said. "I live in the village, I've raised by children in this village, my office is in this village, my home is in the village, and so I'm not going to do anything that would be against the best interest of the village."
       Clark said he would present some numbers as the budget is put together, but said when his retainer is broken down based on the number of hours he works, it is closer to $105 an hour. Clark added that Richmond has a different setup for its legal counsel, as it hires another attorney aside himself.
       Cregar said he was fine with the appointments so long as the board could examine Clark's fees during budget workshops.
       Appointments to the Romeo Downtown Development Authority (DDA) were not made during the vote. Lee said he and DDA Chairman Randy Seidel would discuss the appointments before any recommendations were brought to the board.
       Other appointments approved with the motion included members of the Planning Commission, Historic District Commission (HDC), Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and the Tree and Cemetery boards. Groups with vacancies include the Planning Commission, DDA, HDC, ZBA, Sanitary Sewer Board of Appeals and the Tree Board.

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