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Council fires clerk who needs kidney transplant

October 13, 2010 - Tuesday night's Oxford Village Council meeting was filled with shocking news.

First, Clerk Dan Luick publicly revealed that he's in need of a kidney transplant.

Then, later in the meeting, council voted 3-2 to terminate Luick effective immediately.

Officials indicated Luick's firing was the result of performance issues related to his maintenance of the village's financial records and his not having them ready in time for the municipality's annual audit.

The audit was supposed to begin Oct. 11, but it had to be delayed for two weeks due to incomplete records.

Council also voted 3-2 to appoint Deputy Clerk Pat Paad as "acting village clerk" until the next regular village meeting, which is Tuesday, Oct. 26.

Prior to council's votes, Luick revealed to officials and the audience that part of the reason he's behind in his work is due to a "very serious health issue."

"I am waiting for a kidney transplant," he said. "I found that out about a month-and-a-half ago – that I only had 20 percent function in my kidneys. It's not something I wanted to discover. It's not something I wanted to hear. But that's what I found (out).

"Some days I am so tired that I make it out of here and I get home and I sleep for 12 hours . . . I'm not my normal self right now."

Immediately following the meeting, Luick declined to comment on his termination. He did speak with the Leader on Oct. 14. His comments are contained in the article "Village clerk responds to firing, addresses manager's performance."

Councilpersons Maureen Helmuth, Tom Benner and Dave Bailey voted in favor of the firing. Village President Teri Stiles and Councilman Tony Albensi voted against it.

Those who voted in favor of the termination noted the problem with the financial records wasn't just a recent thing.

"I think our books have been abysmal for two years and I think there have been other problems," said Helmuth after the meeting. "I think it was the best decision for the village."

"Since he was hired, he's not been ready for the audit each year," Benner said. "And each year it has cost the taxpayers extra money. This year he promised us he'd be ready by Sept. 1 and last night (Manager) Joe (Young) had on the agenda to request another $2,500 to contract for (accounting) assistance to help prepare for the audit."

Luick's worked for the village as clerk since November 2007. He came here after spending 14˝ years with the Village of Vernon in Shiawassee County.

Luick also served as Oxford Village's treasurer from September 2008 until July 2010, when council voted to separate the clerk and treasurer positions and have Young serve in the latter role.

Benner noted Luick's announcement regarding his health issues was the first time he'd mentioned it.

"I feel bad for him, but he didn't request any time off or anything at all," the councilman told this reporter.

Stiles indicated she voted against the firing because she's "concerned about getting through our audit."

"Dan certainly has the experience to get us through it," she said.

That was Albensi's concern as well.

"I don't believe it was an appropriate time to be doing it as we're heading into our audit," he said. "I'm actually disappointed that council decided to take that action last night. But at this point, I'm just ready to move forward, get this audit done and move on with the business of the village."

Stiles indicated she would have been in favor of implementing some sort of disciplinary action against Luick if the financial records still weren't ready when the auditors return in two weeks.

The idea of firing another village employee was not a pleasant one for Stiles.

"I just hate having to lose another person," she said. "Compassion-wise, I really wish that it could have worked out for Dan (Luick)."

Council made both its decisions following a closed session performance evaluation, in which Luick specifically requested that village Manager Joe Young not be present.

Council honored his wishes and Young was required to leave.

The performance evaluation was added to council's agenda by Benner and Bailey because the village was unprepared for its annual audit.

Young told this reporter some financial records that are Luick's responsibility were not up-to-date or complete. These included the bank reconciliations for the village's tax and checking accounts, the "due to" and "due from" accounts, the interest on the village's Certificates of Deposit, accounts payable and utility billing postings.

"They weren't significant items, but they need to be done in order for them to start their audit," he told this reporter.

The auditors are scheduled to return in two weeks "assuming everything's caught up," Young noted.

Despite Luick's revelation about his health, officials noted the problem of financial records not being ready for the annual audit is not unique to this year.

Last November, Luick was criticized by council because the village books were out-of-balance. It was learned the village's general fund had been out-of-balance since March 2009.

When the auditors started their work last year, they discovered the village's bank reconciliations were not current and as a result, they spend most of their first three days determining the out-of-balance items for certain funds.

"We still have the same issue – we are not ready for this audit," said Stiles, who noted it's been this way for the last four years, dating back to before Luick, when Christine Burns was the village clerk/treasurer.

It was indicated that Young is the common denominator during that time frame.

"It is frustrating that these issues continue to not be completed within a timely manner," said Albensi, who noted making sure the financial records are up-to-date is the "joint" responsibility of both Luick and Young.

The idea of once again paying extra to hire outside help to get the village books ready for the audit, as it's done for the last few years, did not appeal to some officials.

"I'm not in favor spending any extra funds. We've done this two years in a row," Benner said. "I am not in favor of using anymore taxpayer money to do Dan's job."

"I do not want to hire an extra person to get this done," Stiles said. "I don't want to spend anymore of the taxpayers' money to get something done that should be done by the staff that we have."

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.
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