The news that Butler Township Trustee-elect Joe Flanagan is making a play for Township Administrator Kim Lapensee’s job is not surprising, but it is premature and ill-advised in my view.
Of course, this is the same man who, on the eve of the November election, was the beneficiary of two inflammatory mailings that presented his opponents no opportunity to respond.
The first highlighted the past legal troubles of one candidate and the other had unflattering pictures of Lapensee and Trustee Doug Orange – who Flanagan defeated – in red with a bold headline that read “What are these two hiding?”
The mailings were paid for by a Political Action Committee called OHPAC for Responsible Government, a PAC whose sole contributor was Alex Kolodesh, a partner in Singer Properties, the major developer in the Miller Lane Business District.
Kolodesh also donated $25,000 to Flanagan’s election campaign.
It’s appalling to me that Flanagan, who hasn’t even been sworn into office yet, had the gall to send Lapensee a letter full of threats while saying he “doesn’t take pleasure in writing this letter.”
I’m not sure I believe that.
Never once did he mention in his election campaign that his first move – before ever taking office – would be to demand the Township Administrator’s resignation.
Flanagan’s primary reason for wanting Lapensee to resign is laughable.
Flanagan says that he wants Lapensee to resign for failure to provide leadership to the Board of Trustees. Say what?
That’s not her job. It’s the Board of Trustees’ job to provide leadership to Lapensee and her staff, and it’s Lapensee’s job to execute the vision as set forth by the Trustees. If it was the opposite, then the Board of Trustees would be unnecessary.
Furthermore, Lapensee was just given a performance evaluation in August that gave her an above average score for “leadership.” That evaluation was signed by two current Trustees including Mike Lang and Flanagan ally Nick Brusky.
Speaking of Brusky, while he officially took the “no comment” line on Saturday, make no mistake – he was aligned with Flanagan throughout his election campaign. And there’s no way Flanagan would make this move unless he knew he had the other decisive vote in his pocket.
While no lawyer, this would seem to bring into question Flanagan’s claim that Lapensee can be fired “for any reason or no reason.”
While it is true that Lapensee, or any other Administrator, serves at the pleasure of the Board of Trustees, the days of simply firing someone “for any reason or no reason” are long gone, regardless of what the theory of “at will” employment would seem to say.
Finally, Flanagan says in the letter that Lapensee voluntarily resigning would allow her a graceful exit – one outside the public view.
That’s false, and Flanagan knows it. As a former Township Administrator, he has to know that the abrupt resignation of Lapensee would prompt questions and public records requests. There’s no sweeping this under the rug.
The bottom line is if Flanagan and his ally Brusky decide to go down this path, it won’t be pretty. It will cost the Township both in dollars and in reputation.
It would behoove Flanagan to rethink this move. If he and other members of the Board of Trustees want Lapensee to improve in specific areas, then they should deliberate them, vote on them, and present them to her. Absenst obvious mismanagement or malfeasance – which does not appear to be the case – the Trustees owe that to any employee.
That would be the smart, financially and legally sound thing to do.
It would also be the decent thing to do.