Personnel issues were at the heart of the debate at the most recent meeting of the Verona board of aldermen, held on January 23. Most notably, an argument about whether or not to enter closed session to discuss the hiring of a police chief and officer could not be resolved, leading Mayor Joseph Heck to adjourn the meeting.

The last item of business for a busy meeting, the subject of hiring interim chief Bobby Smith and interim officer Levi Neely was brought up with a motion to enter into closed session. Aldermen Linda Gates and DeDe Hutson voted to do so, but Alderman Michael Haynes objected on the grounds that they could be hired in open session.

After city attorney Darlene Parrigon noted that it must be done in closed session, Heck requested that said closed session be held under recording on a video camera. Gates was quick to object to that suggestion and would continue to object as it was brought up for the remainder of the meeting.

Having offered his services as police chief to the city upon the resignation of previous chief Tim Jones, Smith grew weary of the bickering at the meeting and declared he would quit, along with Officer Neely.

Heck, with an agreement by Smith, stated he has the ability to hire the two men on his own authority, as per the Missouri Municipal Code. Ultimately, after much discussion and disagreement, that is what Heck appeared to decide, adjourning the meeting to a round of applause by citizens in the audience, according to the Monett Times.

Prior to that discussion, the board was able to reach agreements on a number of agenda items, including the hiring of two new volunteer fire fighters, Kody Denton and Salvadore Angel. The board also passed a motion to pay Fire Chief Wayne Rice $200 per month for a one-year period, by the end of which he is to complete Fireman 1 and 2 training or his pay will drop to $100 per month.

The council also addressed the city attorney's letter asking to be recused from the Haynes cases, as it would be a conflict of interest should she offer a plea or an appearance of impropriety should she not offer one.

A motion was made to allow Parrigon to recuse herself, with Gates and Hutson voting "yes." Haynes attempted to vote "no," but Parrigon pointed out that as an alderman with a direct interest in the outcome of the vote, he should abstain, citing the Missouri Constitution and the Ethical Commission. Haynes then agreed to abstain, and the motion passed, allowing Parrigon's recusal.

In other new business, the council passed a motion to have the locks changed on the fire bay and police department doors after personnel changes have led to missing keys. In old business, the board passed a motion to sell the old maintenance truck to Darrell Mooneyham for a bid of $553 and approved applications for business license renewals from Kids R Here, BCP and Jack's Ice Cream.

The board later tabled a decision on setting dates for a budget work session until the next meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m., February 27, at city hall.