Hope Town Council: Officials to meet about allegations against employee

HOPE — A closed-door meeting of the Hope Town Council will be conducted Monday regarding accusations against an unidentified town employee, council president Ed Johnson said.

The allegations first surfaced publicly during the council’s Dec. 19 meeting when a Hope resident made an inquiry to town officials.

Jake Miller, president of the Hope Chamber of Commerce, told the council during that meeting he had information about the matter that he was willing to share.

But Miller and others were urged by town attorney Cynthia Boll to withhold their comments. She advised the council to not discuss the matter publicly until after an executive session.

When that closed-door meeting is conducted Monday, Johnson said he anticipates there will be no witnesses. Rather than hearing specific allegations, the main emphasis will be establishing guidelines on how to proceed with the minimum risk of liability, Johnson said.

“We just want to make sure we are moving in the right direction,” Johnson said.

A decision is expected that evening on whether the council should schedule a second closed-door meeting, he said. If a second meeting is conducted, that’s when case-specific facts and evidence will be presented, as well as the possible questioning of witnesses, the council president said.

While state law allows the council to discuss personnel matters behind closed doors, Johnson said any formal action taken against the employee must be announced during a public meeting.

Meanwhile, a plan that would set aside $139,500 over a three-year period was approved Tuesday by the council.

Each month, the town will place $3,875 from various town funds into savings, according to the plan introduced last month by Clerk-Treasurer Diane Burton.

The original concept, as presented by Burton, was to see if the town could afford loan payments over a 40-year period to pay for a new $2.5 million town hall.

During their Jan. 16 meeting, council members decided to shelve their plans for a new town hall to avoid decades of constant debt.

Although those plans were not resurrected Tuesday, the council did decide at the urging of former town council member Tim Shoaf to carry on with the savings portion of Burton’s plan, Johnson said.

If the town can save $139,500 over the next three years, that money might be used for a variety of purposes, he said.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.