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Museum board chairman voted out; can stay on the panel

Nov 19, 2013 - By Kelli Ameling, Staff Writer

The Fremont County Museums Board of Trustees chose to remove the chairman from his position in a 3-2 vote Thursday.

The three-hour meeting began normally with the introduction of special guests, but instead of advancing to the next item on the agenda, museums board member Erin Shirley asked if the group could skip to the roundtable that was scheduled to take place at the end of the meeting. She said she wanted to make a motion while Fremont County commissioner Stephanie Kessler was present.

Chairman Stephen Banks asked if there was something specific Shirley wanted to discuss.

Shirley asked Fremont County deputy attorney Jodi Darrough if the board could go into an executive session to discuss removing the chairman from his position.

Darrough said they were unable to because the chairman is part of a public board, and it would not fall under personnel.

"I move to remove the chairman of his duties," Shirley said, citing "neglect and misconduct."

The motion passed when vice chairman Jon Lane and board members Carol Chidsey and Shirley voted for the motion, while Banks and board member Tom Duncan voted against the motion.

Lane then took over as acting chairman for the rest of the meeting.

Lander Museum director Connie Shannon said she was "shocked" by the motion and wanted reasons to justify the charge of "neglect and misconduct."

Board members said that at a recent public meeting in Riverton, a museum employee "yelled" at trustees, and Banks did not stop the individual.

"He tolerated employee behavior directed at the trustees," Chidsey said. "As a leader, you should be able to step in."

Chidsey also said Banks made purchases without the board's knowledge and "entered into potential contracts," without communicating with the board.

Duncan asked for the board's reasons in writing, which Chidsey gave to him.

Lane said recent events had "crystalized who I was dealing with."

Although Banks was not removed from the board, he packed up his items and left the meeting.

The Fremont County Museums Board of Trustees is a board appointed by the Fremont County Commission, which has to vote to remove someone from the board.

At the end of the meeting, the trustees decided in a 3-1 vote to petition the county commissioners to have Banks removed from the board.

Duncan was the lone member who voted against the motion.

"This is mistake," Duncan said of the removal of Banks as chairman.

Chidsey said she was "terribly sorry to have to ask him to step down," and said she already noticed a difference

"I am saddened it had to come to this point," she said. "But this is the calmest meeting we have had in months."

The board will vote on a new chairperson during its meeting at 1 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Riverton Museum.

The board also ...

- Raised questions about a bill for classified advertising in local newspapers.

- Approved advertising for the central director vacancy until the position is filled.

- Considered a partnership with the Fremont County Library System for hiring maintenance employees.

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