March 19, 2014 - Three yeses, one reluctant yes and one definite no.
That was the vote last week to elect Dave Bailey as president of the Oxford Village Council.
He vowed to "do my best."
Council had been without a president since August 2013 when Tony Albensi resigned. The following month, council voted not to elect a president and have Bailey continue serving as president pro-tem.
Since then, Bailey's been performing all the duties of the village president, such as chairing council meetings, but without the benefit of the title or pay.
The village president earns an additional $200 per year on top of his or her regular council pay of $15 per meeting.
Councilman Elgin Nichols felt it was time settle the matter and correct what he perceived to be an injustice. "I believe that this is an issue that we need to resolve," he said.
He nominated Bailey for the job.
"The gentleman I would appoint as council president has been actively carrying on the responsibilities of the president, even though he's pro-tem, (and) attends numerous meetings," Nichols said. "He does a pretty decent job. He has a good background. Not only is he a graduate of Harvard University, he's a very good, sound citizen of Oxford (and a) churchgoer."
"Personally, I don't think that he would, in any way, do anything to harm anyone," he continued. "And I think it's about time that he takes on the title (of) council president."
"Thank you for your kind words," Bailey said. "I didn't realize I was doing such a great job and had such a great background."
"I believe that it's the moral thing to do and the right thing to do," Nichols noted.
But not everyone thought so.
Just as she was six months ago, Councilwoman Sue Bossardet was adamantly opposed to electing Bailey as president.
"I think that these nominations involve moral issues, ethical issues, honesty issues and standards," she said. "I, in good conscience, can't vote for people by default. I think that's a poor reason to elect somebody."
Council only had two options for the presidency – Bailey and Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth. That's because, according to the village charter, the president and president pro-tems must be council members who were elected to office.
Both Bailey and Helmuth were elected in 2009. Council members Nichols, Bossardet and Bryan Cloutier were all appointed due to a death and two resignations, therefore, they're not eligible.
"We have an attorney's opinion that says that we don't have to have a president, that we can continue to operate under (a) president pro-tem," Bossardet said.
"I'm not going to lower my standards by having to vote for somebody by default or (because) 'it's time.' That's what I hear – 'it's time.' That's not a reason to put somebody in a position."
In rebuttal, Nichols said, "With all due respect, this is not high school – we don't blackball people."
"We're in a situation where we have two elected officials and that's the way it is," he continued. "I don't see any moral issues involved with the gentleman that I've nominated. He's always been aboveboard as far as I can see."
"I think it's time we stop playing high school politics here and place this man in the position. He's acting as president. He's carrying out the responsibilities."
Although he voted for Bailey, Cloutier was not happy about it.
"Obviously, I have reservations," he said. "But you know what, if it makes things (better) for this community moving forward, then I . . . It's against my better judgment, but I will say yes."
Council then voted 3-2 to elect Helmuth as president pro-tem. Bossardet and Cloutier were the dissenting votes.
"Again, we only have one choice here," said Nichols, who nominated Helmuth. "I think Maureen has brought quite a bit to the table here in terms of her knowledge and background. Again, I want to get away from the personal, chastisement of individuals."
"I think that if it is relevant, chastisement of individuals could be done," Bailey noted. "I have no intention of doing such, but yes, if it's relevant, by all means, get it out there."
During her time on council, Helmuth has admitted to covering up an alleged embezzlement of more than $3,300 in property tax payments back in 2006. At that time, she was working as the village's deputy treasurer.
Helmuth admitted to discovering the alleged embezzlement, then using money from her own pocket to cover the missing funds. She remained silent about the matter until coming forward in January 2011.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.