At a full Blue Lake Township meeting, the board was split on the decision to allow a closed session to happen with regards to a matter involving the fire department and one of its employees, Walter Udell.
At the September 10 township meeting, Udell requested a closed session to be added to October’s agenda regarding a personnel issue. The board accepted and placed it on the agenda.
During the meeting on Monday, Oct. 8, Blue Lake Township Supervisor Don Studaven told the board and the audience that he contacted the township’s attorney and that his recommendation was to not hold the closed meeting because it would jeopardize another case and also because Udell had not officially appealed the fire department’s decision to the board.
Blue Lake Township Clerk Fred Arbogast Sr. said that when a member of the board doesn’t want to do something, they contact the attorney and have him find an excuse.
The board was split on whether or not to hold the closed session, with Fred Arbogast and trustees Lyle Monette and Scott Haan advocating for the session.
“This closed session involves a person who put his life on the line for you and you don’t even want to listen to it?”, Arbogast asked. He also stated that this case had nothing to do with the other current case that Studaven stated it would interfere with.
The board members went back and forth on the issue of whether or not Udell appealed to the board about the fire department’s decision, with some stating Udell asked for a closed session, but that technically wasn’t an appeal. Other members disagreed, stating that his asking for a closed session was the appeal.
After some discussion, Fred Arbogast made a motion to allow Udell a closed session. The motion was seconded by Haan, and after a vote of 3-2 (Treasurer Melonie Arbogast and Studaven voted no), the board approved the closed session.
Once it was time for the closed session at the end of the meeting, Udell asked Melonie Arbogast to recuse herself from the closed session because of a conflict of interest. Udell explained that because both he and Melonie Arbogast are running for the position of Blue Lake Township supervisor in the upcoming election, that creates a conflict of interest. Fred Arbogast said he agreed that there was a conflict of interest.
This created another debate between board members, and also included a few audience members. Finally after a lengthy discussion, the board decided not to hold the closed session and Melonie Arbogast said she would do further research on the issues of conflict of interest. Udell can ask for another closed session if he wishes.
Udell told the board that he would seek legal council and possibly involve the media because the board mentioned that the closed session was possibly for a disciplinary action. Issues that are to be discussed in a closed session are not supposed to be mentioned in an open meeting.
“If you guys don’t want to keep this behind closed doors, neither will I,” Udell said. An audience member stated that the board did not want this issue to get out in the public. The meeting was adjourned without a resolution to the issue.