Concerns again expressed at What Cheer City Council meeting

A packed house awaited the What Cheer City Council on August 14.

What Cheer, Iowa- Continued concerns about the treatment of What Cheer City Clerk Melanie Vermillion were again raised at the August 14 What Cheer City Council meeting. All five members of the council, as well as Mayor Jim Greiner, all were present at a meeting that, at times, became tense. At the July 10 City Council meeting, a packed house of citizens expressed concerns that the council had violated open meetings laws during the June 12 meeting. Citizens also expressed their opinions that councilmember Jeff Ferns, who was not present for the July 10 meeting, had a personal vendetta against Vermillion. During audience comments on August 14, Chris Vermillion, husband of City Clerk Melanie Vermillion, said that he feels his wife has been mistreated by a Ferns. 


“I would like to know why my wife is being harassed all the time by a certain councilmember. I’d like it to stop. I’m sick of it. She’s been here 15 years and hasn’t had any issues,” Vermillion said.


Ferns was present for Vermillion’s comments.


“Is that all you’ve got?” Ferns asked Vermillion.


“I’ve had enough. Leave her alone. She’s doing her job,” Vermillion responded.


Councilmember Max Gragg Jr, who was present for the June 12 meeting but not at the July 10 meeting, told Vermillion that the treatment of his wife was not his business.


“I think you ought to stay out of the business of the city council,” Gragg said to Vermillion.


After Vermillion spoke, various other members of the public again stated their belief that the council had violated open meetings laws when the council unanimously approved motions by Ferns to record all meetings, direct the mayor to look into city audit information, and require the city clerk to provide a monthly itemization of bills, items that were not included on the public agenda. 


“And who made the motion to record all meetings?”


“It’s not against the law,” Ferns said. “You can say whatever. Then why didn’t you guys call the sheriff? Why didn’t you call the law?” he added, shortly before walking out of the meeting.


“I just walked out!” Ferns exclaimed as he was questioned as to where he was going.


Mayor Jim Greiner said that Melanie Vermillion is doing her job effectively as City Clerk.


“She’s doing her job and she’s doing it exactly like she’s supposed to,” Greiner said. “Things we said, they were wrong and that’s what it boiled down to. It just kept rolling from there,” he added in reflecting on the June meeting.


Vermillion and Greiner reminded the council that violations of the open meetings law, should they be pursued, can be levied against each individual councilmember and the mayor, and can be as high as $2,500.


“He says things that are going to get you guys in trouble,” Vermillion said of statements by councilmember Jeff Ferns.


For more on this story and others, catch the August 22 edition of the News-Review.