A Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District board member wants the district to pay the legal costs of his attempt to oust a fellow board member.
Robert Hemen, SBFPD Board Treasurer, made the request at the board's Monday, Jan. 21 meeting.
The costs Hemen referred to were incurred after he filed a petition in 2018, as a member of the district, against the district, in an effort to oust SBFPD Board Secretary Denise Dill, by questioning the validity of her position. Dill was appointed by a majority of the district board in 2016 to fill the term of outgoing board member Robert Smithey. But Hemen contended that Dill should have later run for election to the position.
At the Jan. 21 meeting, Hemen said he would have been fine if Dill were elected to the board, but he wanted her to resign and then run for election.
The district filed a suit against Hemen and his claim. Judge Kenneth Hayden rendered his ruling on that case stating that Dill would continue to serve as a member of the fire board because, according to state statute, she was legally appointed, and no successor had been duly elected or appointed and qualified.
At the Monday, Jan. 21 meeting, Hemen requested the district pay him back $9,700 that he spent, as a citizen, on attorney fees to fight the district.
“All you [Dill] had to do was resign and then run for re-election,” Hemen said in a recording of the board meeting. He said the district spent more than $80,000 in legal costs, and is still going to have an election. "Just think how we could have used that money for our firefighters or our community," he said.
The amount that Hemen contends the district has spent on legal fees over his petition for Dill's removal could not be confirmed. However, the board has incurred tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees responding to and battling Hemen’s actions. These costs have been adding up since before Chief Dennis Reilly resigned, in 2018.
Hemen also questioned how the board paid bills during Board Secretary Brian Layman’s temporary resignation. At that time there were only two board members and he (Hemen) did not vote to pay some of the bills.
“I have not seen approval anywhere in the minutes to pay those bills,” Hemen said.
Layman resigned a few days after former SBFPD Chief Dennis Reilly resigned. Reilly resigned due to alleged harassment and bullying by Hemen. Layman said the reason for his resignation was due to comments made by Hemen that made him fear for his family’s safety. Hemen denied both accusations. A letter released by SBFPD Attorney Tom Lorraine stated that both Dill and Layman witnessed the comments.
After announcing his resignation, Layman reversed course and decided to continue serving on the board. According to Lorraine, Layman was able to continue as board president because the board had not officially accepted his resignation. Actions taken by the board require a majority and Layman and Dill both signed to pay the bills that Hemen referred to.
“I know the district has the money to pay my legal costs in reserve. You could pay me tonight,” Hemen said. Following Hemen’s comments, there were no comments from the board or the public regarding Hemen’s request or comments.