Posted Online: Oct. 09, 2012, 11:34 pm

Port Byron discusses replacing public works position

Comment on this story

By Sarah Hayden, shayden@qconline.com

Port Byron village board members on Tuesday discussed options for replacing a vacant public works position.

On Oct. 4, former public works superintendent Rick Kessler, 42, of Hillsdale, was sentenced to 180 days in jail after pleading guilty to misdemeanor theft. In a plea agreement, felony counts of theft, official misconduct and unlawful credit card use were dismissed. He also must make $697.63 in restitution to the village.

He was accused of stealing a light and power tools from the village and using a village credit card without permission to buy less than $300 worth of goods.

In April, the board voted to relieve Mr. Kessler of his duties. Mayor Bob Wilson and Village Clerk Barbara Cray have taken on the public works responsibilities without extra compensation.

Tuesday's discussion focused on whether to replace the position, create a new administrative position or parcel out responsibilities among board members as suggested by Trustee Harold French.

"Let me ask you this: What happens when they don't fulfill their duties?" asked Trustee Todd Wiebenga. "We already have a board member who can't make it to meetings.

"If we hire an administrative assistant, and they fail to get the job done, we can always fire them," Mr. Wiebenga said. "But if we have board members doing these duties, it's hard to hold them accountable."

Also on Tuesday, the board discussed the results of a recent audit by Gorenz & Associates. While the audit was mostly satisfactory, the report also reflected Mr. Kessler's actions. Trustee Scott Sidor said Port Byron was cited for "lack of oversight over internal finances," and controls need to be improved to secure village assets.

"I think that's unfair," Mr. Sidor said. "They are referring to situations regarding one individual who had no access to money."

Mr. Sidor said he was very pleased with the rest of the audit.

The board also:

-- Approved trick-or-treat hours for 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 31

-- Approved paying $600 to Nelson's Tree Service for the removal of three trees

-- Announced a flu clinic is planned 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 15 at the village hall.