The Owensboro Human Relations Commission called an emergency meeting Wednesday evening to approve a new interim staff and discuss in a closed session "a specific personnel matter regarding the appointment, discipline or dismissal of an individual employee."

On Dec. 3, Kaitlin Nonweiler, OHRC executive director, and Vicky Montalvo, administrative assistant, resigned, effective early January 2020.

Neither Nonweiler nor Montalvo attended Wednesday's meeting. Nonweiler declined to comment when contacted after the meeting ended.

However, the Messenger-Inquirer obtained a copy of her resignation letter.

"One year and three months ago, you took a chance on me, and I took a chance on the Commission," Nonweiler wrote. "I felt valued and appreciated. While there were challenges every day, there was also sufficient support and encouragement."

Nonweiler said it was tempting to remain quiet about the reasons behind her resignation, but she hoped an explanation might spark change.

"Although my time with the Commission has been, overall, satisfying and productive, for some time I have become less and less satisfied with the work situation. The lack of training, no clear work instructions, and the lack of communication, commitment, and leadership from the Executive Committee has made it increasingly difficult to feel I can continue to serve in my position. I no longer feel appreciated or supported by the Commission and I see no opportunity for professional growth."

OHRC board members came out of closed session Wednesday and voted unanimously to hire Joanne Kendall as the interim executive director, beginning Friday. They voted likewise for Jaklyn-Mahree Hill to be the interim executive assistant. No start date for Hill was given.

OHRC officials said Nonweiler will remain the executive director through Jan. 3, 2020. Montalvo's last day will be Jan. 1. The new and outgoing staff will work together for a smooth transition, commission officials said.

"We thank them for their service to the commission and the community," said Angelica Almanza, board president, "and we wish Ms. Nonweiler and Ms. Montalvo well in their endeavors."

The board also approved Nonweiler's request to be paid for four remaining vacation days and to allow her to take 11 hours of compensation time.

Kendall has served on the commission board in the past, OHRC officials said.

"Her integrity and loyalty to the commission speaks for itself," said Naheed Murtaza, commission vice president.

When Wednesday's meeting first started, it focused on past budget items.

Murtaza told fellow board members that OHRC expenses for a Native American heritage celebration at Kentucky Wesleyan College in early November totaled nearly $1,000 more than the expected amount of $3,000. Commission bylaws state the board must approve expenditures totaling more than $500.

Also, she said staff members have not yet answered questions the board asked about April and October budgets.

For those reasons, Murtaza said invoices were requested from the first of the year and are under review. Angela Hamric, the city's finance director, has been consulted because the commission's leadership wants to be sure city officials are in the loop on all financial matters.

"This is the public's money," Murtaza said. " ... We are going to make sure we check everything."

It may be months before the commission starts to look for permanent employees to replace Nonweiler and Montalvo, she told board members. Because interim staff members will not receive benefits, it will allow the commission to save on expenses.

In the meantime, the interim staff understands the commission's direction for the near future, Murtaza said. "We would like to pull back a little bit and pump the brakes and provide some stability," she told fellow board members.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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