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Editorial: Has Landis board failed to learn from embezzlement allegations?

The Landis Board of Aldermen on Monday made a puzzling decision in promoting an existing town employee to the town manager position while allowing him to continue in his current jobs.

The town named Deputy Police Chief, interim Finance Officer and Information Technology Manager Roger Hosey as its new manager. Hosey has built good will in Landis for his role in leading the town following former Manager Reed Linn’s and Finance Officer Ginger Gibson’s resignations under the cloud of a state investigation. But judging by Hosey’s employment arrangement, board members either have a short memory or have no interest in creating checks and balances in local government.

Hosey’s contract allows him to continue serving as deputy police chief and information technology manager in addition to town manager for a salary of $87,000, a reasonable amount for those duties. The town will also pay for Hosey to obtain his master’s in public administration. And when Kenny Isenhour retires as head of the Landis Police Department, Hosey will be promoted to police chief, too, according to Hosey’s contract. Until then, Hosey is simultaneously Isenhour’s boss and his subordinate. Who has the final word when the two disagree about a matter involving the Police Department?

What’s more, his contract allows him to be head of more than one department at the same time as he is town manager. So, Hosey, for example, could be town manager, police chief and, say, public works director at the same time.

We don’t suspect Hosey will take advantage of that. He’s done a remarkable job in providing transparency to a historically opaque town government and appears to have posted his own employment contract online hours after his promotion. In a small town, it’s understandable that one employee may serve as town manager and a department director.

However, the town should look to the allegations its leveled against Linn and Gibson as a reason to implement more guardrails against wrongdoing than usual. While serving as fire chief and town manager, Linn allegedly inflated his total compensation to more than $345,000 without authorization. Gibson’s total compensation also allegedly was inflated to significantly more than the Board of Aldermen approved.

We’ve said previously a town manager from elsewhere is best suited to run day-to-day operations in Landis. And comments by aldermen Monday that too many new faces might come into office at once, with an election coming up, are naive. Fresh eyes are precisely what the town needs now.

The town board should at a minimum take immediate steps following Isenhour’s retirement to push for a separate police chief (Hosey’s contract allows the board to have a significant say in who that is). And Hosey should quickly begin a search for a permanent finance officer.

The town board must create checks and balances that will make it more difficult to carry out embezzlement and easy to catch errors.

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