Sunrise Beach Fire Board of Directors work to find commonality as restructuring continues

Lake Sun Leader

The Sunrise Beach Fire District laid out a number of operational updates Tuesday afternoon in an open letter to the community. 

The letter opened clarifying the current status of the Board of Directors, which is currently only comprised ofPresident Denise Dill and Director Robert Hemen. This is only a couple months after the departure of then Director Brian Layman in June. In April,  voters approved increasing the number of Board of Directors from three persons to five persons. The two additional seats will not be up for election until April of 2021.

The letter continued with updates from the July 2020 board meeting, stating that Director Hemen made three motions:

1) The time of the Board Meetings to be moved from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm.

2) That all public communications (including press releases and social media posts), except during emergency incidents, must be approved by the Board of Directors

3) Mr. Rick Butler, the candidate that ran against President Dill in the April 2020 election, be appointed to the seat vacated by Layman All three motions received no second and were not voted on.

President Dill made a motion following that Garrett Blackwell be appointed to the seat. Mr. Blackwell previously served on the Board. The motion was not seconded. President Dill also recommended that the case be taken to court and let a judge decide who should be appointed, to which Director Hemen refused, showcasing the disagreements the board is currently facing in making decisions for the district’s future.

After tabling the discussion until after public comment, the Board heard public comment and the meeting was adjourned with no further issues resolved.

In August 2020, Director Hemen requested that the meeting start at 6:30 pm and added three topics to the agenda:

1) Audio or video recording of all public meetings beginning in September 2020

2) Residency requirement of all new employees

3) Change the meeting time from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm or 7:00 pm.

President Dill again disagreed with the changes requested and maintained that the meeting time was not officially changed and will remain at 5:30 pm. The August meeting of the Board of Directors scheduled for 5:30 pm on 17 August 2020, was canceled due to no quorum. 

Currently, the two board members are dead locked on several issues. Residents have inquired as to how this can be resolved or how can the District proceed. At this point, the district explained that the following can occur:

1) The Board Members would have to agree on a candidate for appointment and fill the vacancy.

2) The Board can vote to take the matter to court and allow a judge to choose the candidate.

3) The Board could, conceivably, continue the debate until the April 2021 election when the two new seats are elected and then the four-person board would appoint the vacant seat, which being of an equal number, could also potentially be dead locked on a fifth candidate.

What is not allowed under the current situation?

1) Can we have a special election for the vacant seat?

The law does not state the vacant seat can be filled by special election; it specifically states the vacancy shall be filled by the remaining board members. However, if the board decided to hold such an election, Morgan County does not allow local elections during a Presidential Primary (August 2020) or Presidential Election (November 2020) per the Morgan County Clerk. This means that such an election would not be held until April 2021 at the earliest. This would be same election the two new seats would be voted on.

2) Since a five-person board was approved, can’t you just appoint both candidates until the next election?

No, under Missouri Statute 321.120, regarding the additional seats, the new seats must be elected, which in this case would be the April 2021 election.

Questions of service and the budget have been raised by residents if the board would continue to be dead locked on issues. The district confirmed that District operations will continue. The Board approves the annual budget and approved policies in which bills and payroll can be paid so long as those expenditures fall within the approved budget. Additional purchases such as large renovations or truck purchases would require board approval.

Should the Board remain dead locked into December when the 2021 budget is presented, the District may proceed into 2021 with the previously approved 2020 budget being reused. While this is not the preferred way to proceed, it does allow the District to move forward and for services to not be interrupted.

Board Meetings are held the third Monday of every month at 5:30 pm (unless a change is approved by the Board) at the District Headquarters, 30 Porter Mill Spring Rd., Sunrise Beach, MO. 65079.