By Sarah Nigbor
ELLSWORTH – It’s been a busy week for Village of Ellsworth ovcials. Three special Ellsworth Village Board meetings in one week resulted in one stau member being let go and one trustee resignation.
After a special village board meeting held Monday, June 13, the village board voted 4-2 to let Administrator Clerk-Treasurer Nicole Stewart go from her position, euective immediately. Trustees Tony Hines and Lance Austin voted against her termination. No reason was given for the decision. The board went into closed session that night to discuss performance evaluations for Public Works Director Bradley Vick, Police Chief Eric Ladwig and Stewart. In open session, the board announced the decision to terminate Stewart’s employment.
Village President Becky Beissel, who said Stewart was “terminated without cause,” issued the following statement: “While I’m not able to discuss personnel matters, I can say that the decision to terminate the contract of employment with Administrator Clerk-Treasurer Stewart was one the board did not take lightly, but one we felt was in the best interest of the village. A vacancy in a key role such as this is always divcult; however, the board is committed to moving forward in a positive direction and is optimistic for the future of our community. I would like to thank the residents in advance for their patience during this time.”
Beissel said Stewart was an employee-at-will and the
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contract could be terminated at any time by the board. Stewart, an Ellsworth native, has been with the village since April 2020. She replaced long-time Village Clerk Peggy Nelson, who held the position for 34 years.
The following afternoon at the second special village board meeting, Beissel provided village employees with reassurance that the clerk administrator-treasurer position will be filled with a great candidate.
Ovce Assistant Angie Fisher, when of fered to be appointed temporary clerk, “respectfully declined.” The board voted to appoint Beissel as temporary clerk, until the position can be filled.
Other items board members hashed out included delegating Stewart’s emails, obtaining her keys and village-issued laptop, payroll and elections oversight. The board also agreed to contact the village auditor to see if there are any concerns.
A third special village board meeting took place Monday, June 20, at which Beissel announced Trustee Scott Feuerhelm’s resignation. Feuerhelm, who works for Xcel Energy, was recently re-elected in April for another term.
“Scott met with me last Tuesday and submitted his resignation due to him being transferred to Colorado for the next year for work,” Beissel said.
She said the news was disappointing because Feuerhelm has been a good trustee. He served on several village committees, such as the Board of Appeals; Finance, Purchasing & Buildings, Community Development Authority (chair), Public Safety (alternate), Salary & Labor, and Street & Sidewalk.
As for appointing Beissel the temporary clerk, the board voted to rescind the motion after receiving guidance from Village Attorney Bob Loberg. Trustee Austin was absent.
“So last week at our special board meet- ing, we had appointed me to fill in as the tem porary clerk,” Beissel explained. “I talked with Bob afterward and he said ‘I don’t think you can do that.’ I could be hired but not appointed.”
Beissel said she didn’t act as village clerk this past week, but helped in the ovce as vil lage president.
The meeting ended with a closed session, after which the board came back into open session and approved the appointment of Julie Borner as the temporary part-time clerk.
"She will fill this role until we get a per manent candidate hired,” Beissel said.
The Salary & Labor Committee will meet at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, June 22 to discuss hiring a new clerk administrator-treasurer. The meeting will be held in the village hall board room (130 N. Chestnut St., lower level).
Beissel hopes to recommend someone to fill Feuerhelm's board seat at the July 11 meeting, at which time the board will vote on her recommendation.