The chair of Harrison Hot Springs’ Advisory Planning Commission (APC) has resigned from her position effective immediately.
According to a letter dated May 23, released in Monday’s council agenda, Sonja Reyerse-Peters has turned in her resignation after several years of service, citing the departure of several key village staff members since the beginning of the new administration under Mayor Ed Wood.
“The suspension and termination of key senior Village staff has left me deeply troubled and concerned about the direction the Village is taking under the leadership of the new mayor,” she wrote. “I strongly believe that our senior staff played an essential role in the success of our village and the effective operation of various committees and commissions, and their sudden departures has created a significant gap that will be difficult to fill.”
The APC is a body of advisors that may consider and report on matters referred to the commission by council. Council may call an APC meeting when it’s required.
Reyerse-Peters alleges Wood terminated key village managers without due consideration for their contributions or the impact their loss would have on effective and transparent village governance.
Since the Wood administration began in November, four village managers, interim CAO Kelly Ridley, Coun. John Buckley and now Reyerse-Peters have left or expressed their intention to leave. Ex-CAO Madeline McDonald officially retired on Jan. 31 after being on leave for several weeks. Former deputy CAO Debra Key recently announced her own retirement following several weeks of being on leave. Community services manager Rhonda Schell is, as of press time, still on leave. Financial officer Scott Schultz resigned in May, effective mid-June. Ridley gave notice that she was leaving at the end of June.
“While I understand that there may have been reasons for the suspensions, I cannot in good conscience continue to serve, reporting to a Mayor who does not seem to value village employees and who makes decisions that may negatively impact our community,” she wrote.
Reyerse-Peters thanked the APC members and members of council for their support.
During Monday evening’s council meeting, Wood moved to dissolve the APC as there were only two members remaining on the committee following Reyerse-Peters’ departure, and therefore no quorum. Wood proposed to instead assemble a board of variance, which would primarily deal with zoning and development issues.
The motion failed, and the council voted to refer the matter back to village staff.