The Frankford Town Council confirmed at its Monday, June 4, meeting that it has terminated the employment of its town solicitor.
Responding to a question from resident Jerry Smith, Council President Joanne Bacon said the council had voted to fire attorney Chad Lingenfelder at a May 1 special meeting. That meeting was an executive session and was closed to the public.
Approval of minutes from the May 1 meeting, as well as those from the May 7 regular council meeting, were tabled on June 4.
“They need a lot of work,” said Council Vice-President Greg Welch.
“We were involved with a personnel issue regarding the attorney for the town. After that meeting, and discussion with the council, the council voted to terminate the services of Mr. Lingenfelder,” Bacon said. “So now we are in the process of trying to obtain another attorney for the Town of Frankford.”
When Smith asked why Lingenfelder had been fired, Bacon responded, “It’s a personnel issue,” and therefore not a matter of open public record. “I don’t think we’re required to tell you what that was,” she said when pressed by Smith for details.
“Can you give us some idea?” Smith asked. “We waited a very long time to get this attorney, and it was a very laborious process,” after former town solicitor Dennis Schrader resigned, Smith said.
When Smith characterized the council’s comments as “vague,” Welch agreed, saying, “We’ve had discussion amongst the council about being forthright about what’s happened, or being silent on it.”
“Are we hiding more things than what are necessary?” Smith asked. “Are we being secretive with things that maybe sometimes we don’t have to be as secretive with?”
“I believe we are,” Welch said. “I believe you’re correct, and I think we should be more forthright,” Welch said.
Velicia Melson, the newest town council member, said, “This incident is a personnel matter, and we’re not really at liberty to discuss it.”
Welch said that, by the council not saying more than it has, “We can look bad in this situation. “It can come back on us and make us look like we were in the wrong.”
“I think that’s a double-edged sword,” Bacon said. While, she said, “It’s not my intention to hide anything from the residents, it’s just not the time yet.” She added that she would not say anything more on “the case with our attorney,” other than that the issue is “ongoing” regarding Lingenfelder. “It’s not a done issue,” Bacon said.
Property owner Kathy Murray said she felt that if there is an “ongoing investigation” involving Lingenfelder, it would be best for the council not to comment.
“If it comes back that you’re wrong, and you’ve made this public statement about him, then you’re going to look bad,” Murray said.
“We’re looking for another attorney right now,” Bacon said, adding that, currently, the council has one attorney “who is willing to meet with us to maybe come on board” but that a meeting has not yet been scheduled.
“We really want an attorney that’s familiar with municipal law,” Bacon said.
“There are some complex issues going on,” she said, such as issues with the Town’s water plant.
By Kerin Magill