Lakewood’s village board approved firing its village clerk Tuesday, a move that did not come without pushback from several village residents and one village trustee.
Village President Phil Stephan called for Village Clerk Jan Hansen’s firing, saying in a Feb. 16 letter to the board that Hansen’s “shredding of village documentation” and “false testimony” at an electoral board hearing “are not consistent with the village of Lakewood’s manner of serving residents and the duty of care owed to village residents.”
“I no longer have trust or confidence in the village clerk Jan Hansen,” Stephan said at Tuesday’s meeting.
Trustees Ryan Berman, Brian Augustine, Dan Alexander, and Doug Ulrich ultimately voted to approve Hansen’s termination. Trustee Pam Eddy abstained, and Odom voted no, saying she didn’t even believe this was “a legal motion.”
Hansen said she never received notice of her removal from the village president. Instead, she said, she found the charges against her on a board packet that went out before the meeting.
She pushed back against several of the allegations made by Stephan in the letter to the board and accompanying charges.
“At no time did I shred election documents,” Hansen said. “What I shredded was a house receipt to ensure all nomination papers were provided to me by the petitioners.”
A transcript of the Jan. 19 electoral board hearing, included in the written charges leveled by Stephan, shows an attorney asking Hansen what she did with a candidate’s original receipt for filing nomination papers. At question was whether the candidate had submitted the documents in a way that would have disqualified them but realizing the issue, refiled them.
According to the transcript, Hansen said she shredded it, so it didn’t get mixed up with a second receipt.
The written charges state the shredding of this document violates the Local Records Act, specifically the part that says all public records by an officer or agency “shall not be mutilated, destroyed, transferred, removed or otherwise damaged or disposed of.”
Stephan also accused Hansen of providing inaccurate testimony at the electoral board hearing when asked about the fastening of a candidate’s petitions.
Hansen said the candidate did not have a stapler with her when she first came to Village Hall, but the candidate said she did. Another witness who was called also said the candidate had a stapler.
According to transcripts of the electoral board hearing, Hansen told the candidate she did not need to staple her nominating petitions. State election law requires that paperwork to be “neatly fastened together in book form.”
Hansen said at its Tuesday meeting that throughout her years of being village clerk, she received many packets that were not secured.
“This has never been an issue until this year when people started filing objections against proposed petitioners,” Hansen said.
Also alleged in the written charges was “poor, negligent and unsatisfactory performance” of assigned work when it comes to matters related to fulfilling Freedom of Information Act requests, as well as in Hansen’s performance of other administrative duties.
Hansen said Tuesday she always forwarded public records requests to Chief Administrative Officer Jeannine Smith for review.
“It’s really, really too bad because I believe I did the best that I could, but in the last nine months, that’s where all these charges [came from],” Hansen said. “It would have been nice if somebody would have talked to me about this.”
One Lakewood resident, John Kavalunas, said he has dealt with Hansen about half a dozen times since moving to the village.
“She’s always been pleasant to me, given me the information I requested,” Kavalunas said. “And so just from a pure human level, I found that I felt sorry for her and I felt very uncomfortable with the degree of negativity that was directed her way [at the last meeting].”
Another resident, Rich Thompson, during public comment, called what was happening to Hansen an “absolute abomination.”
“To pull her out in front of the entire public and accuse her of things that you have in the past said you cannot talk about in public forums because they’re [human resources] issues, you are all absolutely vindictive jerks,” Thompson said.
Berman had asked trustees to consider removing Hansen as village clerk at a previous meeting, saying then he thought ”her actions and her admissions under oath create significant risk for the village.”
Odom said Tuesday she did not think the board was authorized to vote to remove a clerk or any appointed trustee, but Stephan said village attorney Michael Smoron advised them it was.
“If you have better advice than our attorneys, I don’t, so I’m going to go with our attorney said,” Stephan said.