Wage, bill pay takes center stage at meeting

Because of the Native American Day holiday, the Hill City Common Council met Oct. 15.

At its last meeting, the council did not approve the wages for Hill City Planning and Zoning commissioner Connie Wolters (the vote ended in a 2-2 tie with aldermen Bill Miner and Steve Jarvis voting for approval and aldermen John Johnson and Jim Peterson voting against approval).

“At this point, I must emphasize I only took this position to serve my community,” Wolters said during public comment, addressing the withholding of her wages.

Wolters said she would be willing to serve as a volunteer on the planning and zoning commission to ensure that the withholding of wages stops.

During the consent calendar, Johnson moved the wages for Wolters, city attorney Frank Bettmann and city administrator Brett McMacken from the consent calendar to be voted on as separate issues.

Wolters withheld wages were already on the agenda as an action item, so mayor Kathy Skorzewski combined Wolters pulled wages and her wages already on the agenda. Bettmann’s and McMacken’s wages were to be discussed as separate items.

McMackens wages were voted upon first and passed 3-1 with Johnson the lone “nay” vote.

Then it came time to vote on the bill submitted by Bettmann.

“Why did we get a bill for the (2-2 tie vote lawsuit)?” Johnson asked.

Bettmann said he thought they had that discussion before. He said he could not go into it because Johnson — along with Peterson — are plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed against then-mayor Julie Wickware-Klein, then-alderman Jason Gillaspie, then-alderwoman and now mayor Skorzewski, Bettmann and McMacken.

Because of that, Bettmann said, it is confidential; however, Bettmann said that he is working on the case on behalf of the city.

“I am working on the lawsuit as Hill City’s attorney,” Bettmann added.

Bettmann went on to say later that neither Peterson nor Johnson should be allowed to vote on the matter.

Jarvis said he has always thought that.

“You (Johnson and Peterson) have a conflict,” Bettmann said. “I am telling you the work I do for the city is always properly billed.”

But, because Bettmann is a defendant in the cast, both Peterson and Johnson took issue with him working on it, which, they said, essentially constitutes Bettmann filing a bill for work he is doing on himself.

After further discussion, it came time for a vote. The vote ended 2-1. Aldermen Jarvis and Miner voted in favor of paying Bettmann’s wages, Johnson voted against paying the wages and Peterson recused himself from the vote.

Because the vote ended in a majority of those who did vote, Bettmann’s wages were paid.

Then it came time to discuss Wolter’s wages.

“What is your reasoning for voting against this?” Jarvis asked. “I’ve never heard one. Is it for job performance? Decision making?”

Johnson said it all goes back to the 2-2 tie vote issue.

It was a 2-2 tie vote for the appointment of Wolters, he said, and Wickware-Klein thought she could break the tie vote.

Peterson said he has several issues that made him vote against payment.

It all goes back, he said, to an opening on the planning and zoning commission which, he said, was advertised and there was an applicant; however, that first applicant was not considered and the deadline was extended, which is when Wolters applied.

“Planning and zoning needs a look at and needs evaluation,” he said. “We need to look at what everyone’s role is. …I have valid concerns.”

Jarvis, though, took issue with the past practice of withholding wages.

“You don’t vote to take someone’s wages away if they have the position,” he said.

Johnson, though, countered with questioning if they are legally appointed they should be paid, but if they are not that is a different story.

“It isn’t right to take someone’s wages away,” Jarvis said.

The council has been informed “multiple times” that it is illegal to withhold someone’s wages, Skorzewski said.

When it came time to approve Wolters’ wages, the vote was 3-1 with Johnson serving as the lone “nay” vote.

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