Hillsdale City Council members were caught off guard by an unplanned appointment for the vacant city clerk position proposed by Mayor Scott Sessions at the council’s Monday meeting.
In last week’s meeting the council decided to review the six resumes submitted for the position, but at the Monday meeting Sessions said the candidates were underqualified and proposed to appoint the current interim City Clerk and Director of Recreation, Michelle Loren, instead.
The council voted against Sessions’ city clerk appointment 5 – 2.
“At the last city council meeting I requested the names of your top two applicants for the city clerk’s position,” Sessions said. “However, after spending a considerable amount of time reviewing the resumes, I believe none of the candidates possess the necessary municipal skills and experience to perform the position. At the Nov. 9 special meeting I will be appointing Michelle Loren, with council approval, as full-time city clerk.”
Councilman Patrick Flannery was concerned that the council’s opinion wasn’t consulted regarding the vacant position and that the mayor’s decision derailed the original agenda.
“This has been a complete change of how the position was described to us and what we agreed upon,” Flannery said. “I’m also disappointed, Mr. Mayor, that you’re apparently not going to listen to the council’s input on who we think should be clerk.”
Councilman Bruce Sharp said the scope of the position changed with Sessions’ appointment and that advertising it as a full-time position would garner more fair results.
“I believe if we would’ve advertised this out as a full-time position we would have gotten more applicants than we had,” Sharp said. “We need to make sure we do this fairly and give everybody a chance. We want to make sure we do this right, and not just appoint somebody.”
The council voted to repost the advertisement as a full-time position and continue taking resumes for another 30 days. Councilwoman Mary Beth Bail and Sally Kinney both voted to appoint Loren as city clerk.
Councilwoman Kinney, whose last night in office was during the meeting, said she voted against the motion to support of Loren’s hard work and experience as interim clerk.
“Michelle has stepped up to the plate numerous times to fill in, and she has run six elections now,” Kinney said. “She’s done an awesome job. I really think we need to look inside first. She knows the job, and I really support her.”
During public comment, Hillsdale resident Penny Swan spoke against Mayor Sessions’ decision to appoint Loren as city clerk. Swan said she was shocked by the decision, but thankful the council chose to repeal the appointment.
“With the city clerk meeting, I was blown away,” Swan said. “You were going to discuss it, there were six applicants, and then boom! You try to appoint somebody tonight. That’s strange to me, I thought, ‘Something’s not right here.’ Thank you guys for having calmer heads, that speaks a lot to open, honest government here.”