After a stressful few weeks and some bewilderment, the “Questions for Directors” session of Middletown’s Common Council revealed what had gone wrong when the position of “Planner and Environmental Specialist” was de-funded last May, after the search process began but before the hiring of Michelle Ford to fill the position in November 2014.
Apparently, the Common Council had planned for the “Environmental Specialist” in the Water & Sewer Department, Jim Sipperly, to take over those duties, but that idea was never implemented, and the Director of Planning, Conservation, and Development Michiel Wackers was never informed of that intention. That plan was problematic, however, from a union perspective, and de-hiring (firing) Michelle Ford at this point could lead to a large liability claim against the City. Director Wackers apologized and took full responsibility for not noticing that the position had been “zeroed out.”
About 30 members of the Environmental Community — mostly members of Ecoin, the Environmental Collective Impact Network — attended the meeting and expressed hope that the position’s funding would be restored with an allocation of $24,5000 to cover the position’s budget for the remainder of the fiscal year. The Common Council voted 7 to 4 in favor of restoring the funding.