Town board president resigns amid citizen pressure

Brenda Wade Schmidt
Posted 1/8/18

Trent town board members at a recent meeting at the Trent gym are Bob Dickey, Jonathan Damm and Matt Larson. Dickey, board president, resigned effective Jan. 4 after Larson called for his resignation and citizens filed a petition for a recall election.

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Town board president resigns amid citizen pressure


After Trent citizens filed a petition for a recall election, long-time council member Bob Dickey said he would leave the board.

Dickey, who was board president, said he was sick and tired of the politics and accusations made against him. He completed his service Jan. 4 after announcing his decision at a council meeting Jan. 2.

“It’s easier to be out of it,” he said in an interview. “I want to do this the most easiest, painless way for the city.”

He will continue to be the maintenance person for the town.

Other councilors, Matt Larson and Jonathan Damm, have reviewed the qualifications of three people who have said they are interested in a board position. They could make a decision on an appointment as early as the next board meeting on Feb. 13.

The controversy and division on the board started in December when Larson called for Dickey’s resignation as board president at the Dec. 12 meeting, accusing Dickey of unethical and sometimes illegal actions. Dickey denied the accusations and said he hadn’t done anything wrong. He did not resign after an executive session to discuss it at that initial meeting.

In the meantime, 38 people signed a petition asking for a recall election for Dickey.

At the recent board meeting attended by more than 60 of the 236 people in Trent, some clapped for Dickey in appreciation for his service. One person apologized to Dickey publicly for assumptions that had been made.

Others continued to publicly argue with him or swore at him about things they accuse him of doing.

Dickey was first elected to the town board when he was about 21 and has served on and off during the last 40 years with a current term expiring in April 2019. The person who will replace him on the board will need to run in the April election this year, said Kim Nelson, finance officer.

In other business:

  • Voters also will consider a second penny sales tax on the April ballot. The council approved the tax, which most communities charge, because the town needs additional money. If the issue passes in April, the earliest the second penny would be added would be January 2019, Nelson said.
  • Moody County Sheriff Troy Wellman said he responded to 347 calls in the Trent area, including 154 calls in Trent, in 2017. After citizens at the meeting questions whether deputies would show up without calling Dickey first, Wellman said there have been times if there is a minor call that the department has checked with Dickey. With a traffic complaint, for example, they might check to see if he can spot the incident before they drive across the county. Wellman said the deputies have to balance safety with other calls at the same time in the county. The department also is providing additional patrols during the time school buses are in town.

Wellman also said that after a couple of recent medical calls, he has reviewed protocol with dispatchers because mistakes were made. In a medical call, the Trent Fire Department should be dispatched along with the Moody County ambulance because there are EMTs among the local fire volunteers. That step had been missed recently but should now be corrected, Wellman said.

  • Larson made a motion to stop using an animal control officer out of Brookings because the $4,000 annual charge was not worth the money. The officer picked up one dog during the year, he said.

Instead, citizens will have to fill out their own complaints on a form at the Post Office and may have to show up in court to defend the complaint. “When we suspend the contract with animal control, if you have a problem with somebody’s animal, you have to fill out that form,” Damm said.

Larson said the money that had been being spent is a budget issue, and if someone needs to be called for an animal, the decision can be made to do so but there won’t be contracted hours. “I understand the dog problem. I’m not for having dogs run wild.”

  • A couple of citizens questioned what results of a recent internal control review of the city showed. Nelson said information is available to the public at city hall for results released recently for the February 2016 review.

Russell Olson, local government audit manager for the state department of legislative audit in Brookings, said in a recent interview that no major infractions or red flags came to the attention of auditors. Instead, auditors focused on whether the city had the proper record keeping procedures in place to protect the finance officer and the public.

There were some steps in which auditors recommended changes, including issuing receipts when citizens pay their utility bills in person and keeping an inventory list that is updated each Dec. 31. “The inventory was there. We didn’t have any issues with it,” Olson said.

Nelson was receptive to assistance and showed initiative in making things better, he said. “The new finance officer was simply doing what the former one did.”