Hancock County News

New Palestine Town Council terminates agreement with former clerk - treasurer

For 15 years, Becky Hilligoss served the New Palestine community.

 

However, the road of service has officially come to an end, following Saturday’s New Palestine Town Council meeting.
 

Hilligoss, who announced last year she was going to retire as clerk-treasurer, had remained on since last May to train full-time clerk-treasurer Tonii Pyle as a consultant. Pyle was elected clerk-treasurer last year.


On Saturday, the New Palestine Town Council put an end to any consulting by Hilligoss by terminating a contract she and Pyle had drawn up at the beginning of the year. The contract, which was written on Jan. 1, 2020 and signed one day later by only Hilligoss and Pyle, stated Hilligoss would provide consulting to Pyle in regards to the finances and general documents for Pyle.


The contract stated it could be terminated with a one week notice by either party and that Pyle, as clerk-treasurer, would pay Hilligoss $25 per hour for her services and that the contract would be paid monthly until Feb. 29, 2020 and that the consultant may be contacted as needed until July 31, 2020.


On Saturday, Pyle announced the contract with Hilligoss was remanded and included an end date.


Councilman Bill Niemier immediately asked about the contract and asked if the clerk-treasurer had the legal authority to enter into a contract that includes the allocation of funds without the approval of the town council.


Attorney Gregg Morelock told council the clerk-treasurer does and the budget is not broken down into department.


Pyle told the council that Hilligoss had not been paid yet and was working six hours a day at a rate of $25 since the beginning of the year.


That news did not sit well with Niemier. 

 

 

Town council president Brandee Bastin said her concern stemmed from the fact that the contract was being paid out of the same revenue stream as the town pays other consultants. Furthermore, she reminded council she was the one who asked questions about the status of Hilligoss last year.

 

 

Morelock told council he was not advocating for or against the contract. Niemier stopped him short, saying his concern is the budget item is earmarked for design-build projects and consultants.
 

“Now when we have a project that has needs, we don’t have funds for it,” Niemier said.
Bastin said it was never mentioned as a need when council was discussing the budget.
Council member Clint Bledsoe told council if the contract were to be terminated, Hilligoss should be at least paid for what she had worked.
 

Several times council members asked if there was an exact total of hours worked, and Pyle said it was from Jan. 6 to Jan. 31 for a total of 30 hours a week. Niemier said that would equate to 20 work days at $150 a day for a total of $3,000.
 

Niemier said the contract needed to end on Feb. 1, and if there was a claim past Feb. 1, he would vote against paying it.
 

Council voted unanimously in favor of paying the $3,000 when a claim from Hilligoss comes forward, and for not paying any claim that may come forward past Feb. 1.
 

Angela Fahrnow told Giant FM the decision was an easy one for her.
 

“Her contract wasn’t legal. It was drawn up by Becky and Tonii, then signed by Becky and Tonii. Then Gregg Morelock told the council we had no say so in the contract. After further research, turns out that information was incorrect,” Fahrnow said.
 

Going back to 2013, Hilligoss had seen a steep increase in pay each year. In 2013, Hilligoss was paid $36,050. Her pay had earned a 33 percent culminative raise, as she was paid just over $48,000 last year.