A tough break for the Sunrise Beach Fire District as a Camden County Judge dismisses a case that would have removed a sitting board member who continues to not show up for meetings.
Judge Kenneth Hayden indicated to the Department that Board Member Bob Heman was still considered an active member and the board still has quorum, even if he and Board President Denise Dill refuse to agree to a meeting time.
NEWS-01-09-2021 SBFD BOARD 1 - 9th January 2021
Fire Chief Joseph LaPlant tells KRMS News this is a major blow to the department, as a 2021 budget hasn’t been decided, instead they have to work under the 2020 budget.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
UPDATE ON SUNRISE BEACH COURT FILING
January 8, 2021
On January 7, 2021 the petition filed in Camden County Circuit Court, Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District v. Bob Hemen, was presented in the court room of Judge Kenneth Hayden.
Prior to the hearing, District Counsel Tom Loraine advised President Dill and Chief LaPlant of an option to offer Bob Hemen a settlement out of court. Counsel Loraine advised this would be the best option for all involved. Mr. Hemen refused.
After numerous delays due to court scheduling Judge Hayden was able to schedule the case, all parties gathered in the court room at 4:30 pm.
Judge Hayden called legal counsels for both sides into his chambers prior to addressing the court room. Upon concluding that meeting, Judge Hayden took to the bench and dismissed the case. Judge Hayden stated that because the Fire Chief signed the petition, there was no order from the board as a quorum authorizing such action.
When asked if the petition could be refiled with President Dill’s signature, the Judge stated that the District is subject to statute and a quorum would still need to vote to authorize such action. Chief LaPlant asked for clarification and argued that the existence of a quorum was in question under 321.200.2. Judge Hayden stated that Mr. Hemen stated he has not resigned and that a quorum existed. Chief LaPlant then asked that it be explained to Mr. Hemen that meeting times are set by quorum, to which Judge Hayden stated the Board should be able to settle this dispute.
Legal Counsels for both sides, Mr. Hemen, Mrs. Dill and Chief LaPlant met in a private room outside the court room to resolve this matter.
Mr. Hemen insisted the Board Meeting times be changed to 7:00 pm, to which Mrs. Dill refused. Mr. Hemen’s legal counsel attempted to make light of the situation and wanted to flip a coin to determine meeting times. Chief LaPlant stated that the Board Meetings could continue at 5:30 pm until April when the new members were sworn in and then the new Board could decide on a meeting time change, to which Mr. Hemen replied that Mrs. Dill just wanted to do everything with a full board. Mr. Hemen’s legal counsel abruptly ended the meeting and Mr. Hemen and his counsel left.
This District’s legal counsel advises there is no path to appeal based on the judge’s decision. This means that the District will continue to conduct business as it has, per District policy, and meetings will either happen if Mr. Hemen attends at the Board set time of 5:30 pm until a quorum changes that time or meetings will continue to be scheduled and called no quorum if one of the two Board Members are not in attendance until April when the new members of the board are elected and sworn in.
Legal Counsel Tom Loraine stated the crux of this case is that any lawsuit has to have a authority of quorum of board members to be valid, we simply do not have that because Mr. Hemen will not vote to have a court decide anything, even if the legal work to accomplish is donated.