After intense arguments at the September meeting, every member of Holley Navarre Water System’s board will now have to prove they are eligible to serve on the board.
The board voted Sept. 19 to have a third party, selected by general manager Paul Gardner, review the eligibility of all board members following multiple allegations of violations.
Board members were given two weeks to submit proof of their status as a water system member.
The allegations were sparked by board member Robert Coley.
“It has come to my attention that a board member is not eligible to serve on the board,” he said. “He does not own property that is listed with the water service, and he does not have a lease on a property. I think that we should deal with that.”
Board member James Calkins laughed and asked if Coley was talking about himself. He was not.
Back in May, Coley had been poised to resign his HNWS seat in anticipation of moving to a newly purchased property in Tennessee.
Multiple community members and HNWS board members told Navarre Press that discussion of his resignation from HNWS had been ongoing.
But he did not step down.
Though Coley did not name any names with his accusation, board member and financial committee chair Brian Kelly took the defensive.
“You are so pathetic…That’s a real low blow, buddy. You are so ridiculous in your lies. I am offended that you would lie that badly,” he said. “Look at you. You are a liar. You are a joke. Old man, go back to Tennessee.”
Chairman Bien May and other members told Kelly to stop, and said he was being insulting and was out of line.
Coley accused Calkins of conspiring to keep Kelly on the board.
“You two guys conspired to give a tap for a property that you (referring to Kelly) don’t own and you don’t live at,” Coley said.
According to the HNWS bylaws, a board member must be a subscriber within the water system.
Kelly countered that Coley was not eligible to serve on the board.
He said Coley does not receive service but instead claims membership on a tap paid by a tenant to his management company, Century 21 on a property he owns.
“Century 21, he has a person living there, living at a place, she has to pay,” Kelly said.
May brought the attention back to Kelly. He asked if Kelly owned the property that made him eligible, and he asked if Kelly lived there.
Kelly refused to answer.
“I pay every month,” he said.
When asked by Calkins at what address he receives water, Coley said 8253 Navarre Parkway, but he said he does not live there.
“You own the property. Does the person you are renting to get to vote in our elections?” Calkins asked Coley.
“They don’t get to vote?”
“But they’re paying the water bill?”
Coley said he pays the bill, but he said he is charging the water bill as part of the tenant’s rent.
“So you are denying them the right to vote. You are denying a member of our utility the right to vote,” Calkins said.
Water system attorney Michael Tidwell would later be asked during the board’s regular meeting for clarification on eligibility to serve. He said any board member must be a member of the water system.
“The bylaws say each connection for services rendered by the corporation shall entitle the subscriber to one membership certificate,” Tidwell said. “The subscriber, in my mind, it does not make a whole lot of difference who owns the property or anything else. It has to do with who is there receiving the service.”
“If I’m not eligible, I will resign,” Coley answered.
Kelly said he was only being called into question because he had asked for financial information on the company in May in a lengthy email.
“They are deflecting because they can’t believe someone came in and asked questions for five months and they haven’t delivered one thing,” he said. “This is a joke.”
He said his questions remain inadequately answered.
In a separate item, the board discussed the email requests sent by Kelly. May said these types of requests should have to go before the board for approval before staff can provide the information. No official action was taken on that item.
As for the eligibility investigation, all members agreed unanimously.
“Having a board member that is not legally eligible is a problem,” May said.
“Yes, it is,” Kelly said.
Gardner indicated he would select the person to verify eligibility for all serving on the board, and expected the process to take a couple of weeks. The topic will be up for discussion at the next board meeting on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.
Read the full article in the Sept. 28 issue of Navarre Press. Subscribe online at navarrepress.com for as little as $38 per year.
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