New Palestine no longer has a street commissioner, and, according to town officials, there are no plans to fill the position any time soon. Instead, Stephen Pool, who had been the street commissioner, has been given a newly created position.
The decision comes on the heels of Pool spending three days in jail earlier this year as part of his sentencing on charges of operating while intoxicated-endangerment. Pool was booked into the Shelby County Jail on Jan. 16 and released on Jan. 19 and was initially arrested in September of last year.
Pool has served as the town’s street commissioner since September of 2016 and was set to make just over $56,000 in 2019.
Reading from a prepared statement, New Palestine Town Councilman Bill Niemier laid out his case for Pool to no longer serve in his prior capacity, stating several areas Pool failed the town and its residents while making a motion for a change.
Niemier also stated that as a result, Pool be subject to the following discipline: a suspension without pay from Feb. 3 until Feb. 6, and a demotion from Street Commissioner to the position of labor wastewater/infrastructure advisor.
The newly minted councilman also stated that Pool’s employment with the town come with several conditions. Among those are: Pool provide the town council president a true and complete copy of his court ordered alcohol and drug evaluation and that he comply with any and all recommendations in the evaluation; that he be subject to random drug testing; that he attend a MADD Victim Impact Panel meeting and that he be placed on a one-year probation.
“During which time, if Mr. Poole further violates our employee handbook, he will be subject to additional discipline, up to and including termination,” Niemier said of the probation.
Niemier’s motion drew a second from councilman Clint Bledsoe and passed 3-1, with Angela Fahrnow voting against.
Under his new role, he will now be paid $49,000; however, he will have far less duties than he did as street commissioner, something that drew the ire of several residents in attendance.
Chris Lytle was one such resident, who asked the council for clarification on the new role.
Niemier responded by saying that the town created a lower-paying position.
A resident asked how Pool could do his job with his license being suspended for three years, and Niemier responded that he could do a lot of work at the office without having to drive and that no town employee is going to provide transportation for Pool. In addition, Niemier said there were “serious considerations” about terminating Pool’s employment before being stopped by town attorney Gregg Morelock, who cautioned those discussions were held in an executive session and not for public consumption.
When pressed who would do all the jobs Pool did as street commissioner – clearing snow, treating roads, maintenance to road signs, Niemier said Jim Robinson, who is the acting town manager while David Book is out on medical leave, will handle all those things.