Plans to fill the unexpired term of one of the two Danville Ethics Board members who resigned last week hit a snag during Monday's City Commission meeting when the entire process for how people are nominated to the body was called into question.
The City Commission approved Mayor Bernie Hunstad's nomination of James Hunn to serve out the term of Jeff Trueblood (would have ended in November), but didn't take up Hunstad's choice to fill the term of Paul Smiley (also ends in November).
Hunn, an ex-Marine who works to preserve and recognize the history of African-Americans in the military, was unanimously approved.
However, before the Hunstad's nomination to fill Smiley's seat could be taken up, City Attorney Stephen Dexter gave a lengthy clarification of the city's ethics ordinance, which includes requirements that board members live in the city limits of Danville for at least a year prior to their appointment and during their service. The packet of documents distributed to City Commissioners included Hunstad's recommendation of Crystal McPherson, director of Danville Family Services, who Dexter said currently lives in Garrard County.
Trueblood's resignation followed the replacement last month of Linda Tillman, the ethics board's lone female and African-American, by Tom Cummins, who was nominated by Hunstad and is white. Tillman, whose term expired in April, told the City Commission last month she was disappointed she had not been contacted directly by Hunstad or anyone else at the city about being replaced on the board.
Trueblood said he was leaving the board early to give the city the opportunity to bring more balance to a body that included no minorities or women. He expressed hope Tillman, the former chairwoman of the committee, would be asked to rejoin.
Hunn and McPherson are both African-American.
Hunstad reiterated Monday that he was not specifically seeking to get Tillman off the board, but simply trying to fill an already expired position with fresh blood. He conceded he was not acting with diversity in mind when choosing a replacement, but pointed to the other women and minorities he has asked to serve in other capacities.
Smiley told The Advocate-Messenger last week he stepped down primarily because he is a candidate for City Commission and wanted to avoid the potential situation of sitting in judgment of an opponent in the race or anyone he may deal with should he be elected.
Although Hunstad has recomended ethics board appointees in much the same manner he would potential members of other boards, Dexter pointed out the ethics board is the only appointed body with an ordinance calling for the entire commission to nominate and deliberate on candidates. Every other board or committee created by city ordinance specifically states appointments are to be made by the mayor subject to approval of the City Commission.
Kevin Caudill, who has served several terms on the City Commission, said in the past commissioners and the mayor all made recomendations, which were then discussed and voted on. Dexter said any nominations for the ethics board brought forward by the commissioners have to be discussed and voted on in open session.
J.H. Atkins, the lone minority on the City Commission, has called for more balance on the city’s various appointed bodies. He said he would bring forward suggestions of his own at future meetings, but declined to say whether he would push for Tillman.
Tillman said following the late-June meeting, during which she asked for an apology, that she didn’t know whether she would accept another nomination. If Tillman is asked to rejoin the board it won’t be Hunstad who reaches out.
Hunstad said he will continue to make recommendations for the board of ethics, despite the fact his nominations technically carry equal weight as those proposed by commissioners. He said he had an idea of who he will bring up for the remaining vacancy.
“A lot of people have been on that board for several terms," Hunstad said. "It's not easy finding people willing to take on those roles, but there are other good people who should have the opportunity to serve.”
The five-person ethics board is now made up of Hunn, Cummins, Vaughn Frey and Tom Tye. Frey and Tye both are members of the Danville Architectural Review Board.
The board prohibits someone who is either an elected or appointed officer of the city, but Dexter said this applies only to city officials and city employees, not those who have been appointed to other boards or committees unless their positions have been designated as city officers by ordinance.
Although ethics charges can be filed against members of boards or committees, if they are brought against a member of the ethics board, that person could recuse himself and one of the two alternates would serve in his place.
City Clerk Donna Peek said there are currently no alternates and there have not been since the ethics board was created.