SUNRISE BEACH, Mo. — The Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District Board is in a deadlock, and a circuit judge says the district's two board members will at least have to agree to bring the problem to him, before he can decide anything.
But first, the two board members would have to agree about when to meet.
Elections for the board—which voters have agreed to increase in size from 3 members to 5 members—will take place in April. One seat on the board is currently vacant after board member Brian Layman resigned in 2020.
The board's Facebook page published a press release on Jan. 8, discussing the issue. Director Bob Hemen (one of the board's two current directors) sent a reply to LakeExpo. We have published both, below.
SBFPD Facebook Page - Press Release
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 courtroom 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 courtroom 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.
SBFPD Director Bob Hemen's Response Sent To LakeExpo
On January 7, 2021, a lawsuit was heard purporting to be filed by the Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District. Joe LaPlant and Mary Dill were the persons who filed the Petition without a board vote or authority to file the lawsuit. The lawsuit was NOT filed by the Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District. Prior to the hearing, District Counsel Tom Loraine communicated an offer made by Mrs. Dill and Mr. LaPlant that the District would pay $5,000.00 to Mr. Hemen if he would resign as a member of the board, and that they would couch the agreement as a payment of his attorney fees. Mr. Hemen declined the offer.
The matter was heard by the Court. The Honorable Judge Hayden explained that the lawsuit was improper and was not filed as authorized by the board of the District. Judge Hayden dismissed the lawsuit as Mr. LaPlant, who Verified the lawsuit, nor Mrs. Dill, could properly bring the lawsuit as individuals or on behalf of the District against Mr. Hemen.
After the court dismissed the lawsuit, Mr. LaPlant, Mrs. Dill, Mr. Hemen and the attorneys met. Once again Mr. Hemen requested of Mrs. Dill that she move the District board meetings to 6:30pm or later, so that more of the public could attend the meetings, for transparency, and so that Mr. Hemen could attend. Mrs. Dill is aware Mr. Hemen has business obligations, making it not possible at times for him to attend meetings at 5:30 pm and creating a financial hardship for him. Mrs. Dill again refused his request. Mrs. Dill was reminded of her fiduciary duty as a board member to act in the best interest of the District and to fulfill that duty. All she had to do was agree to move the meetings 1 hour to 6:30 pm so that a quorum could be present to properly conduct the business of the District. Mrs. Dill again refused to move the meeting time. Mr. Hemen let Mrs. Dill know, yet again, that he would do his best to attend meetings scheduled at 5:30 pm but may not be able to attend for the stated reasons. Mr. Hemen has notified Mrs. Dill that the District and its taxpayer monies should not pay for the improper lawsuit as dismissed by the Judge. Mr. Hemen requested that she confirm 1) whether she would move the meetings to 6:30pm and 2) that the taxpayer monies of the District would not be misused to pay for the improper lawsuit. As of this release, Mrs. Dill has failed to respond.
Robert J. Hemen
Director, Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District