TALMAGE - The Talmage Fire Board is in apparent disarray.

With four of five board members not seeking re-election in August, Board President Allen Gottwald welcomed an election where he and newcomers Gage Boyce, Megan Brehm, Stephanie DeGroot and Diane Bohlken were top vote-getters

On Wednesday, apparent board members Boyce, Brehm and Bohlken voted to schedule a new election on Sept. 28.

Bohlken, whose claim to being board president is based on the Aug. 24 count, said a new election is needed because the board did not properly provide notice of election and did not verify that those voting were registered voters.

Gottwald, who was board president prior to Aug. 24 and acted as board president immediately after the Aug. 24 election, would not call the motion for a new election to a vote.

Gottwald told the purported board Wednesday that its members do not have authority to invalidate the election. He said the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office had responded to an inquiry and said the election could only be invalidated by a judge.

If the election is invalid, the only remaining board member would have been Gottwald. Even then, the board does not appear to have records to show that anyone has time left on their term office.

The Otoe County election commissioner will provide a list of registered voters upon payment, but the election itself will be conducted by the board at its Sept. 28 meeting. Anyone who wants to be on the ballot may contact Brehm.

 

Bohlken said the Talmage Fire Board’s bylaws and constitution documents are missing, so they are relying on state law to proceed. Portions of state law say after a board is organized, the member with the highest number of votes presides over the meeting. Bohlken and Brehm each had the highest votes with 21.

Gottwald was board president prior to the Aug. 24 election and acted as president immediately following the Aug. 24 election.

If the election is invalid, the only remaining board member is Gottwald. 

Gottwald said the reason all five of the board members were up for election at the same time was because they had not held annual elections like they were supposed to.

Questions remain about when members' terms began and expired.

DeGroot claims that the state’s open meetings law were violated when a majority of the purported rural fire board members attended a fire department meeting on Sept. 7.

She says following the fire department meeting, purported rural fire board members met without proper notice and discussed the issue of invalidating the Aug. 24 election.

DeGroot said she believes she is being singled out because she has asked the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission to investigate allegations of discrimination.

Bohlken said the contention is over the fire board’s mission. She said the fire board is suppose to make sure that tax dollars are properly used, but some people hold that the board has a supervisory role over the fire department itself.

Bohlken said the town is divided over issues right now, but she is hopeful  a valid election this month will get things moving forward.

https://rivercountry.newschannelnebraska.com/story/47177425/talmage-recasts-fire-board