New information is coming to light in the resignation of the board president of the Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District and the attempted removal of another member.
The attorney for the Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District Board of Directors, Tom Loraine, has authorized the release of a police report filed by Brian Layman on September 28, 2018 with the Sunrise Beach Police Department. The report regarded comments between Layman and fellow board member, treasurer Bob Hemen at the August 20, 2018 board meeting.
Layman resigned at the September 17, 2018 board meeting.
According to the police report, Layman initially contacted the SBPD by phone, telling an officer that the meeting had gotten heated and that Hemen had made comments to Layman that he took as a threat to his family due to the words and tone they were made in.
Layman told the officer that Hemen said, “and to think you guys have family in the community.” According to Layman’s official written statement to police, the comment was made after the meeting was closed and was said not only to Layman but also to the third board member, Denise Dill.
Layman said he was concerned by the comment, taking it as a threat, and warned his wife to take added caution for herself and their young child, not to leave him at the school bus stop without an adult present.
Dill also made a written statement to police regarding the incident in support of Layman’s complaint.
“On August 20, 2018 after the Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District meeting had ended Treasurer Bob Hemen made it a point to come over and say to myself and President Brian Layman, ‘You guys have family in the community and you (directed to Brian) have small children.’”
According to Dill, the comment was made “secretly by leaning down over us in an intimidating manner.”
The comments were not part of a conversation, according to Dill, and had no place at the board meeting.
At the August 20 meeting, Layman and Dill voted to attempt to remove Hemen from office through a petition in quo warranto. The two had previously voted to censure Hemen at a meeting in July for allegedly disrupting daily operations by attempting to engage in management activities in violation of a board directive, trying to have a change made to a personnel record of a past volunteer and subsequent retaliation and harassment of Fire Chief Dennis Reilly.
Citing harassment, Reilly subsequently resigned just prior to the September 17 board meeting. His last day is October 10. Assistant Chief Jamie Karl is acting chief.
In the press release October 8, the district notified the public that it had prepared the “quo warranto” petition but needed the Camden County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office assent to file it. The prosecutor chose not to be involved in this effort, according to the press release. That left no legal authority for the petition to move forward.
This news follows on the heels of Hemen filing his own petition in circuit court against Dill, alleging that she is not a valid member of the board. Dill was legally appointed in July 2016 to fill a vacancy. The district failed to put up that seat up for election in the following April election as required by state law. In some cases, government appointees do fill out the the term of the board member who resigned, but not in this case.
The SBFPD is governed by a three-member board who serve six-year terms. The district holds a board election for one member every two years. Former member Bob Smithey resigned with years left on his term of service. State law requires the seat to go up for election in the next cycle, April 2018 in this case.
When the error became known — and it did so in the early part of 2018 prior to the April election but too late to change the ballots — Hemen’s petition, filed by his personal lawyer in the matter Jay Kirksey, claims that the board needed to file for a judge to appoint someone to the seat. The district sought a second opinion from a subject matter expert in the field. It appears that the district intended to correct the issue by putting the seat up for election in April 2019.
Whatever the outcome of that court petition, Loraine said they do not believe that Dill’s votes, in the interim period in which her status is in question, would be invalidated.
Given Dill’s status as an appointee, a judge will have to appoint someone to fill Layman’s vacant seat.