The City Council in Audubon Wednesday, appointed a new City Clerk and voted to terminate the employment of long-time City Clerk Lora Hansen. Both motions were not unanimous, though, as Councilman Bob Jacobsen provided the lone nay votes. Soon after the meeting began, the Council entered into a closed session that lasted nearly an hour, to hold interviews with two candidates for the City Clerks position. The candidates were identified as Kandi Tague, from Mechanicsville, Virginia (formerly of Audubon), and Joseph E. Faron, of Audubon.
After going into a closed session to interview two candidates for the position of City Clerk, Councilman Jason Hocker motioned to appoint Foran to the post, with John Whetzal providing the second. Councilman Jacobsen voted no, saying that it was his opinion Tague was better qualified for the job. Steve Stetzel, who was in the audience, questioned whether there was a possible conflict of interest in Hocker having voted to approve Faron. Stetzel asked Hocker if Faron’s wife works for Hocker at a beterinary clinic, and he acknowledged she did. Hocker said he voted for Faron, however, based on his merits.
Hocker didn’t say during the meeting, if he felt his action was a conflict of interest. Afterward though, he told reporters his vote was an honest mistake, but that with the 4-1 vote to remove her, it didn’t matter. Prior to a vote on the removal of Lora Hansen from office, the public demanded to know what the reasons were. Councilman Jacobsen read from the Order of Removal. The list with 14 reasons, also appeared on a big screen t-v for the audience to see. The first few reasons given were for questionable financial practices. That included “Her refusal to keep the library checkbook or use accounting practices in accordance with the Library Board’s request.” Another reason was “Her unilateral rejection of a budget increase request by the Library Board, without bringing said request to the City Council.” And, Hansen reportedly failed to provide financial documents to the Council in a timely manner.”
Other issues the Council had with Hansen dealt with technology issues, such as the posting of meeting meetings and agendas on the City’s website, and failure to use e-mails. And, there were concerns about an error in the budget, which the Council contended Hansen brought to the Audubon newspaper before presenting it to the Council. That statement was later refuted by someone who said the Audubon County Advocate Journal discovered the budget error and brought it to Hansen’s attention, not the other way around. The last item of contention dealt with Hansen’s public relations skills.
The item said “Comments by citizens in the community about a lack of customer service at City Hall.” Several persons in the audience attempted to offer evidence or opinions that defended Hansen’s alleged actions, but the Council, with Jacobsen objecting, voted to remove her anyway. She does have 30-days to request a public hearing upon receipt of a certified letter stating her “Order of Removal.”
After the meeting adjourned, Barb Jacobsen of Audubon paused to recognize Hansen’s years of service to the city. Nearly everyone in the audience applauded Hansen.