Colon Village Council members respond to ex-president’s claims

COLON – In an article published Tuesday in the Sturgis Journal, Carl Thornton, the former president of the Colon Village Council, expressed his frustrations around “unsettling issues” he had while he was president.
Following the publication of Tuesday’s article, Board Member Eddie LeBouf reached out to the Commercial-News to explain his side of the story. In interviews Tuesday with the Commercial-News, LeBouf and Village Clerk Kurt Kuhlman responded to Thornton’s claims.
In the Journal article, it mentioned a “verbal dispute” between LeBouf and Thornton regarding the installation of docks at Veteran’s Park on Swan Street.
Thornton was quoted in the article as saying that LeBouf was “one of a few village council members who have been hampering the effort to get the dock installed.”
LeBouf said what Thornton called “hampering” was LeBouf finding an old ordinance against putting the docks at the location.
“All I wanted to do was have the planning commission look at some contextual drawings of the docks just to make sure they were within the ordinance,” LeBouf said. “I found an ordinance in our book that said we couldn’t have docks there, and because Carl had thought that since we passed the ordinance that said it was legal to have docks at that park, he lost his mind when I pointed out there was an ordinance against it.”
LeBouf added that Thornton was attempting to go around the Village Council to get the docks.
“I spent all this time working on this ordinance, checking it against DEQ standards, and Carl had thought since we passed the ordinance that meant we approved the docks, so he was just going to do all the work himself, and not give drawings to the council and just submit it to the DEQ,” LeBouf said.
“Once concept drawings are submitted to the DEQ, that arrangement of docks are permanent, so he was trying to make a permanent installation on village property without trying to show them to the Village Council.”
On Tuesday, LeBouf recounted a confrontation he had with Thornton that was mentioned in the Journal article, concerning the dock issue.
“I was there the next day to do some work on that very thing, and he said he was going to meet me up there,” LeBouf said. “I had talked about the process that we should go through as village managers regarding these conceptual drawings and filling out our DEQ permit, and Carl understood we had to show these drawings to the council before he filled out this permit.
“He sat me down, he brought me into a back room in the office, and I could already tell he was angry,” LeBouf added. “He tossed some chairs in there, and before I could get my jacket off, he said ‘Sit down,’ and I’m like, ‘Okay, do you mind if I take my jacket off,’ and he was like ‘Sit down now!’ I sat down, then he berated me for three minutes.”
Another point of contention mentioned in the Journal article was an issue with the village’s annual audit report. Thornton told the Journal that “every village council member received an audit book well in advance of the meeting,” and, “To (his) knowledge, only one or two other board members brought their audit book to the meeting with them.”
Thornton was also quoted as saying, “It shouldn’t have shocked me — but it did — that next to nobody brought their audit book … Then hardly any questions were asked of the auditor. I don’t expect everybody on the board to get into the details of the report like I do, but to not bring an audit book? I still don’t believe it.”
LeBouf said most of the board was already familiar with what was in the audit before the Feb. 12 meeting.
“We all read our audits, we had them for all of a month, two months, and we all read through them,” LeBouf said. “We asked questions directed toward our village manager, and we had a lot of our questions answered before that meeting. So, yes, we were all familiar with what was in that audit.”
LeBouf added that the questions were directed toward the village manager and not the auditor because it costs money just to contact the auditor.
Thornton said the village “had a $40,000 deficit in our general fund [in the] fiscal year ending 2018,” but LeBouf said that number may not have necessarily been accurate.
“We’re in good shape,” LeBouf said. “Carl says this thing where we lost $40,000, and that’s not true. We did not lose $40,000. When I look back at previous years, we had spent up to $100,000 out of our general fund, and last year we were spending right around $44,000 out of our general fund. Our fund balance was not bad. We’re digging ourselves out of a hole here, and we’re making progress of doing that.”
In addition, LeBouf claims Thornton was inaccurate with where he got the $40,000 number.
“The $40,000 number is a rough estimate of what we took out of our fund balance,” LeBouf said. “That was a top-of-his-head number, it was more like $44,000 out of our fund balance. It’s still hard to say exactly how much we’ll have to take out, since the fiscal year ends in March, so we still have bills to pay throughout the year.”
Thornton was also quoted in the Journal article that he took issue with “a matter” that involved Village Clerk Kurt Kuhlman, but the article did not go into any specifics.
Kuhlman said the issue in question revolved around minutes from a previous meeting.
“We were to approve the minutes from the November meeting at our December meeting. As clerk and treasurer, I take care of all the minutes and the like,” Kuhlman said. “It was just something very simple in that some changes were made, and when I brought it up in the meeting, Mr. Thornton said I blindsided him and the like.”
Kuhlman said the changes were eventually made, and “it is what it is.”
“I was not going to put my name as clerk on any minutes that didn’t come from me or weren’t approved by the council,” Kuhlman said. “So, I was just raising that question, and he thought it should’ve been handled in a different way.”
Thornton told the Journal, “I did not think that they would take the finances seriously if and until it’s on them.”
Please see Wednesday's print or e-edition for full article.

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