MILAN — The mood at Wednesday’s Milan council meeting was noticeably more relaxed following the hiring of Michael “Scott” Palmer as the new fiscal officer.
Council unanimously OK’d the hiring, though Council President Jim Brown, Councilman Chris Gilliam and village solicitor Randal L. Strickler were absent.
Today is Palmer’s first day on the job.
Palmer, 53, replaces Mary Bruno, who was placed on leave at the end of January and officially fired last month following the discovery of monetary irregularities — which included Bruno allegedly overpaying herself — and a failure to perform duties. An investigation by the state auditor’s office and Erie County Sheriff’s Office is ongoing.
Village administrator Brian Rospert and Mayor Steve Rockwell on Wednesday agreed Palmer is what the village needs.
“This was definitely a positive move in the right direction for the village,” Rospert said of Palmer’s hiring, adding the village was excited to have someone born and raised in Milan and who graduated from Edison. Palmer was one of 19 applicants.
“It’s huge when you get someone from Milan that applies for your job you just understand that their commitment level would be a little stronger,” Rospert said.
“We’re very excited to have him on board,” Rockwell said. “He comes with a lot of experiences and I’m sure he can hit the ground running and that’s what we’re looking forward too.”
Rospert said village officials liked Palmer’s “wealth of knowledge,” which comes from about 30 years of fiscal work.
“His wealth of experience makes sense to us and his ability to perform different jobs at different levels,” Rospert said.
“He’s really good at insurances. He’s really good at securities, all of our financing. He just seemed like a very good fit for our team. When you go through interviews, you pick out a few you want to bring back and when we went into that second interview, it just made sense to us. He had the right fit and the right knowledge. He seemed perfect for our team.”
Palmer said it was an easy choice to apply for a position in the town he grew up in and that he still visited when he came to see his parents and old friends.
“When the job opened up, I thought it was a great opportunity to come back,” he said. “After meeting with (Rospert) and Chief (Bob) Meister, I thought it was a great team. Then I met with the mayor and we got a long great, so I think it’s going to be a great challenge. It’s going to take a little time to get up to speed, but I think it’s going to be great and I’m really looking forward to it.”
The 59-year-old Bruno was placed on paid administrative leave at the end of January while village officials investigated concerns that had come to light at the end of 2016.
This is not the first time there has been controversy involving Bruno.
In 2012 Bruno discovered a $500,000 mistake made by a former village administrator, Bruce Bowie. Former Mayor Robert Bickley claimed Bowie and Bruno had not been getting along and required the two participate in mediation through the Ohio Commission of Dispute Resolution. Bowie ultimately was fired when Rockwell received the position as village mayor.
Controversy swirled around Bruno again in 2013 when answers regarding a diminishing fund for police differed on on two separate occasions.
Bruno "kept reducing (the) budget to the point (Chief Jim Rose) couldn't do any work. She said we don't have any money in the general fund,” former council member John Fox had said.
Bruno had then changed her response at a following council meeting.
Councilman Richard Maloney had been questioning her work since 2007, according to paperwork in Burno’s personnel file.