The Fredonia Town Council meeting on Tuesday, June 29, was originally scheduled to be a work meeting to discuss town code, elect a vice-mayor and assign council positions. Due to occurrences during the week, it became a full meeting with a full house.

The roles and responsibilities of the council and the town chain of command were discussed at length. Council member Brent Mackelprang explained, “Our role is, we are elected officials. We are voted in by the people. We are here at the will of the people. We have department heads that are here at the will of the council. There are five or so at-will employees, department heads that work at the will of the council. To the best of our ability, that’s our job, to do the will of the people.”

The question arose what the role of the town manager was. Mackelprang explained he oversees the policy and regulations set forth by the council. Council member Cody Judd stated the manager oversees the different departments.

The week prior, an altercation arose between Town Manager Dan Watson and Public Works Director Jay Mackelprang, during which the manager suspended the public works director without pay. The concern of the council was whether or not this was within the manager’s authority to implement the disciplinary action without consulting the council.

Councilman Mackelprang stated, “I have never experienced anything like this in 20 years. I never went through a process when none of the council members were in the process.”

Mayor Scott Heaton explained he had been contacted directly after the altercation and informed of the situation. He and council member Jennifer Lukus stated they understood the policy to be that they were not to become involved until the appeal process.

Council members Tony Zaccaria and Brent Mackelprang did not believe it to read that way. Their understanding was the council was to be presented with the suggested disciplinary action and they were to decide on it.   

Each presented code they felt supported their belief. The question became under whose authority did the public works director work. In one area of code, it seemed to be the council, in another, the town manager. It became clear, areas of the code were inconsistent and contradictory.

The council determined one of their highest priorities was to go through the code and do their best to fix it, making it a reasonable, coherent working document. They decided to establish a committee to go through every section of the code to make recommendations for changes.

With this in mind, they addressed the altercation between Watson and Mackelprang, as well as the consequences that followed. The council decided the state of the code did not allow them to fully address the issue. They made it clear that none of them were there to take anyone’s job and they appreciated the jobs both parties perform.

The council decided it necessary to conduct a meeting between Watson, Mackelprang, Heaton and Zaccaria, in order to work out the differences between the two and to help facilitate a positive working relationship. Both agreed to the meeting. Mackelprang was allowed payment during his suspension and would return to work after the meeting.

The council reiterated the need to completely address the town code as soon as possible in order to avoid future problems.

Finally, Watson suggested a new officer be hired for the Marshal’s Office. When JD Wright resigned, he originally felt they could run on a skeleton crew for a time. However, he discovered the next academy would be in August, and the next not for another year. In addition, Watson stated Officer Jarrett Douglas is looking into another position, which would leave the department in a bind without another officer. 

Watson explained he had foreseen this and already posted the possible position through the previous council. Through that posting, he established a list of potential officers, who were tested physically and mentally. Through that testing, he determined the best candidate for the position when it would arise. 

Watson made it clear the candidate, John Lukus, was chosen prior to the new council. The council, with the exception of Jennifer Lukus who abstained, voted to hire John Lukus for the Fredonia Marshal’s officer position.