Westfield mayor’s relationship with clerk deteriorates

WESTFIELD – Following Monday night’s Westfield Village Board meeting, it’s clear the relationship between Mayor Mike VandeVelde and Administrator/Clerk Vince Luce is not good.

Luce’s term as administrator was for one year, and ends this week. His term as village clerk runs until April 2015. VandeVelde has told Luce and the trustees that he will not be reappointing Luce. Luce will, however, remain in office as a holdover employee until the mayor names a replacement, and that replacement is approved by the trustees.

When asked the reason for wanting to end Luce’s term, the mayor described the two as having “irreconcilable differences.”

Accusations flew about the auditorium during the meeting. What had been set up as a village budget meeting became a forum for questions, accusations and explanations about the mayor, energy contracts and the clerk.

VandeVelde felt the heat as questions were raised about his relationship with Ambit Energy. The mayor said he felt the village was paying too much for energy in two locations under a contract with Energy Mark. He believed he could save the village some money by switching two contracts to Ambit, he said.

VandeVelde does, however, have a relationship with Ambit as a former consultant, which operates under a network marketing plan, which the mayor had not disclosed. The mayor insisted at the meeting that he would have received “not one penny” from Ambit for any village contracts.

VandeVelde said that his understanding of village regulations was that only “substantial” interests are required to be disclosed, and he did not believe his relationship with Ambit Energy to be “substantial.” Trustee Deb Puckhaber stated that the mayor not only should have disclosed his relationship and recused himself from any energy-related decisions, but that he had committed a misdemeanor in not doing so. Trustee David Brooker used the term “conflict of interest.”

According to the mayor, days after making a contract change to Ambit, he learned that the village would have to pay a significant termination fee to EnergyMark if the contract was changed. VandeVelde then asked Luce to cancel the new contracts.

Despite a series of questions and responses to both Luce and VandeVelde at this week’s board meeting, it is unclear whether those contracts have actually been canceled.

Toward the end of the meeting, Brooker suggested that the trustees and the mayor gather all of the information about all of the energy contracts in the village and review them together. This was agreed to by all trustees and the mayor.