SYRACUSE — Matthew Pritchard will replace Ben Plikerd on the Syracuse Board of Zoning Appeals. Syracuse Town Council approved Pritchard’s appointment during its January meeting, held Jan. 16.
Pritchard will start his tenure in February. Syracuse BZA held its January meeting Thursday, Jan. 18.
There have been questions regarding the process the town council went through to replace Plikerd. During the council’s December meeting, Town Manager Henry DeJulia presented several appointments requiring council approval.
For Syracuse BZA, DeJulia told the council, “I have an individual that is interested (in serving on the BZA) but does not want to be mentioned until it is decided to replace Ben.” The council approved replacing Plikerd, but the interested party was not named until the January council meeting.
Plikerd said he learned he had been replaced first through a Google Plus notification and then read a story reporting the same information in The Mail-Journal. Plikerd, whose term ran to 2020, said as of Jan. 10 he had not received official notification from the town he had been replaced. In fact, he had received the paperwork for the Jan. 18 meeting.
Plikerd attempted to communicate with DeJulia to learn what was going on. He then contacted Larry Coplen, president of the Syracuse BZA. Plikerd then met with Councilmen Paul Stoelting and Larry Siegel. Plikerd said both men told him they didn’t know who the mystery person was and didn’t even think they voted a mystery person onto the BZA.
Plikerd said he finally spoke with Councilman Tom Hoover, who served as council president for 2017. “Hoover told me I was not a good fit for the town anymore,” Plikerd said. “It’s just frustrating that I didn’t get talked to first.”
According to Matt Sandy, assistant planner for Kosciusko County, state law allows appointing authorities, such as the town of Syracuse, to remove a member during their term if it is felt there is cause. However, “cause” is not specified. “I can see where the code would leave it up to each town to determine cause,” Sandy said.
Plikerd did have 30 days to appeal the town’s decision, but decided not to as he will be running for an elected office in the near future. “I apparently have rights to contest this, but I’m not going to,” he said. “If they had someone who wanted to serve and they asked me to step down, I would have done it. It was just the bad-handedness of it.”
When contacted, DeJulia stated Pritchard was not named to the BZA in December “because there wasn’t enough time. They (county planning office) had already sent out their paperwork.” He also refused to comment when asked why Plikerd was not told prior to the December meeting he was being replaced.
Plikerd said he has served on the county BZA for three to four years and on the town BZA for approximately 12 years.