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Middletown mayor hopes to fill town post

By Alex Bridges

Middletown officials remain mum on the recent firing of the town's treasurer and now are focusing on finding a replacement.

Mayor Charles Harbaugh IV says the town needs to move on filling the important position. How the town proceeds remains uncertain, Harbaugh said Wednesday. The mayor noted that the council has not had much of an opportunity to discuss the next steps. A meeting of the council's committees scheduled for Tuesday was canceled because of the winter storm.

"Hopefully, I'd like to say as soon as possible," Harbaugh said. "There are a bunch of moving parts."

The town needs to advertise for the position, the mayor said, and the council may want to consider low-cost or free options. But the Town Council Personnel and Finance Committee would need to discuss the next step. Councilwoman Carole Snyder chairs the committee. Vice Mayor John Copeland and Councilwoman Carolyn Ailiff also serve on the committee.

Harbaugh said the council had voted in October to hire Harrison as the new treasurer. Town Clerk Rebecca Layman said Harrison was hired Oct. 22 by a vote of 4-2. Harrison replaced Sharon Fadely, who left and took the assistant town treasurer job in Mount Jackson. Minutes of the council's October and November meetings don't reflect that members approved Harrison's hiring. Layman explained that the action took place during a meeting of the council's committees, not a regular meeting.

But Harrison's employment did not last long.

Town Council voted 4-1 at its regular meeting Jan. 13 to terminate the employment of Treasurer Stacey Harrison. Councilman George "Jay" Smith cast the dissenting vote. Snyder was absent from the meeting. The mayor votes only to break a tie.

Then, on Thursday, the council held a special meeting for the sole purpose of going into closed session to receive legal advice from Town Attorney David Griffin. Snyder did not attend the special meeting. The closed session lasted almost two hours.

Prior to the special meeting, because the agenda did not include a portion of time for public comments, Planning Commission member Marshall "Mark" Brown gave the council a list of questions concerning Harrison's employment and subsequent termination. No council member commented during or after the meeting on Brown's questions.

The council took no action after the closed session except to certify that members only talked about legal matters with the attorney, as they had planned. After the closed session Harbaugh said he couldn't speak in detail about Harrison's firing except to confirm her termination.

Personnel matters are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and rarely do public officials discuss the reasons an employee is hired, suspended or fired.

Harbaugh said Wednesday the closed session had nothing to do with Harrison's firing or the town's finances. Harbaugh also said he would not respond to Brown's questions. Brown is a former mayor of the town.

"I feel very confident about our financial situation," Harbaugh said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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