The Town of Lodi Board of Review voted to reinstate Clerk-Treasurer April Goeske after she was let go earlier in June, effective immediately.
The unanimous decision came Tuesday, June 25 during a regular meeting of the board. About 20 people were at the meeting, many of whom came to voice support for Goeske. The board had told Goeske on June 7 that her contract wasn’t being renewed and that she didn’t fit into the “future” of the town. At the time, Goeske believed her contract had expired in 2017 and was working without one.
She packed up her things in the office and began to explore unemployment options.
However, following her dismissal, Goeske reviewed old meeting minutes and discovered she did, in fact, have a contract – it was signed by the board in 2017 and extends to 2020. She attended the June 25 meeting with her lawyer Robert Shumaker of DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C.
When the board went into closed session to discuss Goeske, Shumaker spoke with residents who remained at the town hall. Shumaker said he believed the board was unaware of the contract extension and should be afforded the chance to redress the mistake before threatening a lawsuit.
“I’m confident they will reinstate April (Goeske),” Shumaker said.
He explained that because Goeske did in fact have an employment contract, the board needed appropriate “cause” to fire or release her from employment. He said she had a fundamental right to work under the contract’s clauses, but he stressed that a soft approach would likely bear results for his client.
“We should help (the Board of Review) solve the problem without digging a deeper and deeper hole,” Shumaker said.
Several residents took exception to the board’s original rationality for terminating Goeske’s employment – that she didn’t “fit” into the future vision of the town. Shumaker argued that failing to meet the town’s “vision” didn’t amount to misconduct and so Goeske’s dismissal was inappropriate.
Multiple residents requested board members to explain that vision and why Goeske wasn’t compatible with it.
“We would like to know what the new vision is, and why (Goeske) was terminated,” said one woman during the meeting.
Board members declined to elaborate multiple times, causing frustration for some residents in attendance. One man, however, said he understood the board’s reluctance to talk openly about the issue.
“I feel bad for the board because they can’t discuss this,” due to privacy concerns, he said. “…It’s very difficult for employers to discuss these issues.”
Following the meeting, Board of Review Chairman Brian Henry declined to comment based on advice from a town attorney.
Board member Jon Plumer was not in attendance. Other board members said Plumer was unavailable due to his duties in Madison as a state representative.
Goeske and Shumaker also declined an interview following the meeting. Shumaker sent a written statement the next day in an email.
“Obviously, there was not a ‘cause’ to dismiss April from her position,” Shumaker wrote. “As many community members … in the ‘citizen input’ part of the meeting stated, April has been doing an excellent job as Clerk-Treasurer. … From what I saw at the Town Board meeting June 25, it appears that the current members of the Town Board are well-intentioned people and I expect they will continue to work with April in a positive manner. I wouldn’t be surprised if April continues to serve as Clerk-Treasurer for the rest of her professional career.”
For her part, Goeske stated she is “thrilled and grateful” to have her job back.
“The only downside here is that there is work to catch up on,” Goeske said in a letter. “… I am overwhelmed by the tremendous amount of encouragement and support that I received from citizens throughout the Town of Lodi.”
“I have always tried to be the ‘people’s clerk’ and I appreciate that so many people recognize that,” she continued.
She was hired by the town in September 2005 and worked as clerk in Dekorra for several years before that.