ILION – Tempers flared at an Aug. 9 Ilion village board meeting leading to a few tense moments between board members and village residents.
Earlier this year, the village board suspended Deputy Chief Mike Conover and Chief Tom Pedersen following a complaint filed by a former Ilion firefighter. Mayor Brian Lamica and the board have been tight-lipped ever since, declining to comment other than to say the investigation into the claim is ongoing.
Last week, Conover and Pedersen tendered their resignations, retiring early from the department.
According to a press release from the village, “During Monday night’s meeting, two recently retired members of the Ilion Fire Department (Conover and Pedersen), along with family and friends were in attendance. The two retirees… were thanked for their years of service to the Ilion community by Mayor Lamica.”
As caught on tape by WKTV, Conover then returned one of the last medals he received as a firefighter, presenting it to board member Mike Emrich.
“And you know what this is for?” Conover addressed Emrich. “This is a lifesaving award. This was for a cardiac arrest that happened at Stewart’s that I was given the privilege to go down and help and change that outcome for a period of time for that individual. And I want you to have that Mike.”
The person experiencing cardiac arrest in the incident referenced was Emrich’s father.
The tension increased when the wife of a former firefighter approached board members’ desks seeking to shake their hands.
According to Friday’s press release, she began by disrespecting Deputy Mayor Charles Lester. She reportedly picked up a religious photo Lester had on his desk. “She then threw the photo down on the desk and made a derogatory comment to Trustee Lester with respect to the photo,” the statement says.
Amid shouts and jeers from others in attendance at the meeting, Lester responded with an expletive. Moments later, former firefighter Scott Hendrix charged Lester’s desk. Finger pointing and shouting ensued. The incident was short-lived, however, as those involved, along with a group of fellow residents, left the board room and order was quickly restored.
“Trustee Lester responded to her unexpected actions and comment and later apologized to the Mayor, board members and remaining individuals in the room if his comments offended anyone,” the board’s statement reads.
“It is clear that the events of Monday evening were orchestrated to distract focus from the conduct of village business. Their actions were completely unanticipated by the board,” the statements continues, referring to those in attendance at the meeting. “The entire group, after this, began to leave the meeting, many making additional derogatory remarks to members of the village board. This event was clearly staged and served no legitimate purpose other than to harass members of the Ilion village board and disrupt the meeting.”
Lamica was not available for further comment on the incident.