A lawsuit filed on behalf of three Railroad Township advisory board members against the township trustee secretary claims the Dec. 15 meeting in which the trustee announced plans to abolish the San Pierre Volunteer Fire Department violated the state’s Open Door Law. If you have bonds from UBS Puerto Rico, find out what you should do next.
The suit claims Trustee Mandy Thomason and board member Michael Lawecki were in attendance at the meeting, but advisory board President Clarence Gehrke and member August Eckert were not notified in advance. Thomason announced via Facebook the day of the meeting that a session was taking place “regarding the status of fire protection in Railroad Township.”
The suit notes a special township advisory board meeting may be held if the Trustee, chairman of the legislative body or a majority of the members issue a written notice of the meeting to each member of the legislative body. Such a notice must state the time, place and purpose of the meeting.
The state’s Open Door Law also requires notice of at least 48 hours prior to the meeting be posted at the legislative body’s principal office, which in this case is the San Pierre Fire Station, or at the building where the meeting took place. The lawsuit contends the location of the Dec. 15th meeting is not currently known to the plaintiff.
State law provides for the filing of a declaratory judgment to declare void any policy, decision or final action taken during a meeting for which proper legal notice was not provided.
During the Dec. 15 meeting, Thomason announced a new plan for fire protection in Railroad Township. The proposed “restructuring” of the San Pierre Fire Department, Inc. to create the “Railroad Township Volunteer Fire Department. The suit contends that action pertained directly to official Railroad Township business.
State law also requires any fire protection plan of a township trustee to be approved by that township’s legislative body. The suit states “A township trustee has no statutory authority to unilaterally act on fire protection matters.”
The suit also contends there was not a quorum of the township’s legislative body present during the Dec. 15th meeting. Only one advisory board member was in attendance, and two are required to meet that requirement.
Also, the trustee is required to obtain the township board’s approval before expending funds on fire protection services and equipment, according to the lawsuit. It contends the trustee has failed to obtain said approval for the funding of the new entity.
State law also sets checks and balances between the trustee and advisory board for the purchasing of fire protection equipment and employing full or part-time personnel to staff a department. According to the lawsuit, “The Trustee lacks the express statutory authority to incorporate a Township’s volunteer fire department and to run same on behalf of the Township.”
The lawsuit notes a quorum of the township advisory board passed a resolution during a special called Dec. 21 meeting stating the board rejects fire protection services provided by any other entity than the San Pierre Fire Department and directed the Trustee to present them with a contract for consideration and approval during a scheduled Dec. 30 special meeting. The suit claims the trustee has yet to provide a contract to the advisory board.
View a copy of the railroad-township-lawsuit by clicking the attached link.
Editor’s note: The Railroad Township Trustee also has a Township Trustee Clerk, who receives a salary from the township and is responsible for taking minutes for the trustee. She is not named in the lawsuit.