The Merry Go Round of officials in the Village of South Jacksonville continued to turn Tuesday night as a new Village President jumped on, while a current Trustee is stepping off.
The Village Board of Trustees met in a special session Tuesday night and eventually appointed Richard Samples as Village President.
The appointment and swearing-in did not come without controversy, however. Trustee Stacy Pinkerton moved to approve the three-item agenda by removing the first two items calling for the vote and then swearing-in of Samples as Village President.
Pinkerton said Samples was the only person suggested for consideration and that his loss by eight votes to Tyson Manker in the April consolidated election showed “the people does not want Dick Samples as Village President”.
The motion was seconded by Trustee John Stewart who was the only other yes vote with the motion failing 4 to 2.
Megan Davidson then motioned to approve the agenda with the removal of agenda item number three, amending ordinance 591 regarding deadlines for liquor license filing for this year, which was approved by a vote of 5 to 1 with Pinkerton being the lone no vote.
Trustee Stewart then asked to speak saying that he was not present at the last meeting and feels that he could not support the appointment in good faith because to his knowledge Samples’ name was the only one given consideration and was not formally nominated. Stewart said he felt the nominee needed to be selected from the current Board of Trustees first.
Village Attorney Rob Cross, who attended the meeting by phone, said municipal code states that if no one receives a second or a majority vote by the board, then in municipalities with a population under 5,000 people, the board can elect a qualified resident from outside the board.
Cross said he believed Trustee Pinkerton’s comments to be accurate when earlier in the discussion, she said during the closed session meeting she expressed interest in serving as Village President Pro Tem, but no second was made and only Trustee Megan Davidson spoke up.
Cross then said the board was past that point in the process however any trustee could still suggest another name. Trustee Stewart then asked if any members of the board had a suggestion, and after hearing none, suggested his own name. Trustee Pinkerton seconded the suggestion which failed by a 4 to 2 vote.
The board then took up a motion by Trustee Tom Jordan to approve the appointment of Samples as Village President, which was seconded by Jackie Killion. The roll call vote ended in three votes, for and two against, with Trustee Megan Davidson abstaining citing that she was officially tendering her resignation as Trustee, and felt it was not within her right to vote for the appointment.
Attorney Cross then interjected saying that the abstention did not count as a yes vote and the board needs a majority of 4 or more votes to pass the motion so the appointment has failed.
Davidson asked if she was required to vote at that point, and Cross advised that if a Trustee motioned for and received a second, a re-vote could take place. Tom Jordan then motioned with a second from Killion and the appointment of Dick Samples passed 4 to 2.
Pinkerton left the proceedings following the vote. A former resident who was present and spoke during public comment, Colby Huff asked for a point of order and questioned that since the first motion failed, the second should be considered at a future meeting for a vote. Cross said that he believed that it could be re-voted on immediately.
Samples was then sworn into office by Trustee Jackie Killion. After taking his seat on the dais, Samples clarified the reporting on agenda item number three that the action was to approve extending the application period for liquor licenses in the village by 30 days and did not refer to any election filing periods. The meeting was then adjourned by unanimous vote.
Following the meeting, new Village President Dick Samples said he planned to get right to work getting up to speed on the state of the Village business.
“We just need to sit down with the Department Heads and the Trustees and so on and see where we are at. That’s my first priority. My first priority is to get these liquor licenses out. We haven’t had anybody leading. We haven’t had any management you know, so that’s where we’re at right now. I can’t really comment on too much because I don’t know everything that’s going on.
I was not real happy with the two Trustees walking out, but I totally understand that. If they want to retire, quit, resign, fine that’s no problem. Because I’m not going to put up with, you know, with all the problems we’ve had in the past.”
Trustee John Stewart who served as chair for the meeting also left early after waiting until Samples was sworn into office and could take over as chair.
Samples also said he has a candidate for Village Clerk in mind, and also had a Trustee suggest a possible candidate and his intention is to have a suggestion for clerk at the next regular meeting.
Trustee Megan Davidson plans to meet with Samples sometime this week to go over the work she has been doing as the Finance Committee Chair during the majority of the year. Davidson said it was a very hard decision to make but in the end, she was doing what was best for her and her family, and that the position brought a lot of undue stress.
Davidson’s resignation is effective this Friday, December 31st.