More ousted New Lebanon staff speak out, council members claim charter violations

Two of the eight employees terminated by the village of New Lebanon in March are speaking out about their experiences, as two council members share their concerns about how the firings took place.

Administrative assistant Ann-Marie Joy and seasonal parks coordinator Marilyn Brown were each notified of their termination by Acting Village Manager Rob Anderson.

Anderson issued Joy a termination letter, which was effective immediately, dated March 22.

In it, Anderson cited Joy’s “at will” employment status and vaguely referenced “recent events” that lead up to her firing, but failed to include specifics.

Joy was initially hired by the village in 2016 on a volunteer basis, ultimately working her way up to the full-time administrative assistant position.

“I’ve stayed for so long because the village was a good place to work with good people,” Joy said last week. “My heart goes out to the office workers at the village who I know are working their hardest to keep things running smoothly.”

Joy said she does not know why she was terminated and that she is in the process of appealing the decision with the village.

“I sincerely just want to go back to work at a job I love and work with the kind, good-hearted people that I’ve met through this job,” she said.

Brown, who worked mostly from home during the winter months, was notified of her termination by Anderson via email on March 13. As was the case with Joy, Brown’s notice did not specify reasons for the decision.

“There was absolutely no reasoning (given) at all,” Brown said. “I had not met with the interim manager before my termination and still have not met him.”

In the termination email, which was obtained by this newspaper, Anderson requested Brown send in any finished work product she had.

Brown said she declined to do so given the email’s language directing her to stop all work for the village.

“Because he had terminated my employment effective immediately, I had no responsibility to fulfill his request for my work product,” Brown said. “And I still have not been paid for my last pay period.”

Anderson said Friday he has not signed off on Brown’s latest time sheet because he has not received proof of her work during that time period.

“I asked Ms. Brown to send me the research materials and other data she stated she was working on during that pay period before I sign off on her timesheet,” he said via email. “I have not received that information, so I have no way to verify that she worked those hours since she did not report to the office.”

In addition to Joy and Brown, code enforcement officer Melody Davis, village Chief Financial Officer Phillip Hinson, Police Chief Curtis Hensley and Service Superintendent Scott Brock were also terminated by Anderson.

Village Manager Glena Madden, who had reported directly to council, was ousted around the same time in a 4-3 vote, and Law Director Ron Keener, who worked on a contracted basis, was notified that his services were no longer needed.

Councilmembers Gale Joy and Tammy Loch, two of the three who voted against the firing of Madden on March 19, have spoken out this week against the actions of Mayor David Nickerson.

Nickerson introduced the initial legislation to place the five department heads on leave, and the motion to launch an internal investigation, both of which were approved by council in a 4-3 vote.

“The mayor, nor any council member, has the authority to initiate an investigation, hire an outside special investigator, terminate employees, or appoint a clerk of council,” Joy wrote in a statement to the newspaper on behalf of himself and Loch.

Joy and Loch said they believe the actions taken by the mayor and council violate the village’s charter and ordinances, which outline the village as a manager form of government and not council-mayor.

Joy and Loch ended the dual statement by adding that they would have supported an internal investigation, and even subsequent terminations, if things were handled differently.

“The events that have transpired could have been done quietly, and procedurally correct, where it did not harm the community or damage the reputations of those involved, (but) unfortunately, that isn’t the case,” the statement reads. “Reputations were damaged, careers were impacted, civil liberties were violated. We will feel the repercussions of these actions for many years to come and it may have opened us up to financial liabilities and lawsuits.”

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