The nepotism allegations stemmed from Hemen's first term in office when his son was employed with the district.

The Sunrise Beach Fire Protection Board won’t be reimbursing a member for legal expenses he asked to be paid for out of district funds. 

In January, SBFPD board member Bob Hemen asked to be reimbursed for out-of-pocket legal expenses he incurred after filing a petition against the board regarding the legality another member’s seat as well as fees from his first term in office when he was accused of nepotism.

Hemen told members of the board he spent $9,700 of his own money on legal bills he felt the district should cover.  The board took no action in January but did turn Hemen down at their most recent meeting.  

SBFPD legal counsel Tom Loraine said, “Mr. Hemen is asking the district to reimburse him for his legal expenses that he incurred in going against Mr. Schraeder’s opinion and my opinion and losing in the courtroom. There is no basis or grounds for that.”

Loraine went on to say the issue had been raised twice before. 

Board members Denise Dill and Brian Layman voted to deny Hemen’s request. 

In 2018, Hemen filed a petition asking for a judge to appoint someone to replace Dill, claiming she was illegitimately serving due to the board missing an election for her seat after she had been appointed in 2016. A circuit judge confirmed Dill could continue to serve on the board, dismissing Hemen’s petition, with the ruling that the district move forward with an election which they have done.

Elected in April 2018, Hemen disagreed with the legal advice and ultimately sought his own counsel outside the district’s attorney who had advised that the board could simply hold an election the following year. That was based on a second opinion from Ivan Schraeder, an attorney who specializes in the field of political subdivisions.

The nepotism allegations stemmed from Hemen’s first term in office when his son was employed with the district. 

Hemen claimed that the other two board members spent over $20,000 out of the board’s funds to charge him for nepotism without putting that item on any meeting agenda.

There were past nepotism allegations against Hemen by the board and former fire chief Dennis Reilly during a censure the board made against Hemen in July 2018. Among other things, the censure motion stated that Hemen attempted to obtain changes to personnel records on behalf of a former volunteer. When Reilly refused to make the changes, the censure motion alleged that Hemen threatened retaliation against the chief.

Hemen has said this incident dates back to 2015 during his prior term in office and should have been addressed then if needed. The incident initiating the personnel record dates back to 2013.

There has been ongoing disputes between the 3 members of the board. The former fire chief resigned in 2018 after citing problems getting along with Hemen. It should be noted that for stability the board has voted to place a question on the April 2019 ballot to change the district to a five-member board instead.