Veterans board avoids hearing process after member resigns

·4 min read

Jun. 29—The Butler County Veterans Service Commission avoided a potentially unpleasant hearing process after Commissioner Jim Eriksen tendered his resignation a day after the board asked for his ouster.

Eriksen sent a three word resignation email to the board Tuesday — "I officially resign," it said — and he told the Journal-News he didn't want to comment further.

The rest of the five-member board voted unanimously on Monday to petition for his removal after he failed to regularly attend meetings and other obligations. Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Noah Powers, who appointed Eriksen in January 2021, has had to deal with board — that was once dysfunctional — called this a "disappointing hiccup."

"It's an unexpected and disappointing hiccup, that's what it is. It's not the end of the world," Powers said. "Those guys, the other four in particular, they work like workhorses, they just do. They're fired up about the jobs that they do, they want to offer new services. They're always open to new things. They make their money go a long way in serving the veterans. I'm really proud of them."

The Journal-News examined meeting minutes since Eriksen was appoint to represent the VFW on the board and found he has attended 11 meetings and was absent from nine, including special meetings. He earned earned $8,868 annually and was expected to attend trainings and participate in other board activities to help veterans.

"I don't know what it is with Jim, these other guys are retired and Jim had a fulltime job and I think he was kind of torn between what to do, and I understand that," Powers said. "But you know he had a job to do here too and he got paid for this job, maybe not as much as he got paid for his other job, but still it's important."

The vet board is charged with serving about 22,000 veterans and is funded by a slice of the county's general fund. The budget for this year is around $3 million.

Veterans Board President Bruce Jones said they need all hands on deck to help the staff accomplish everything they want to do for the veterans.

"I think when he was around he contributed, but I think at this point in his life and career it was not the right time to be a commissioner with the goals we have in mind for the commission," Jones said. "We're trying to set higher and higher standards every year for what we want to accomplish for the veterans of Butler County and it requires all five of us to do that."

Often confused with the Veterans Administration, the independent board is charged with helping vets navigate the Veterans Administration system to get medical help and other services, arranging and paying for transportation to medical appointments and finding local services for everything from legal issues to marriage counseling.

Commissioner Chuck Weber said "I consider this an unfortunate turn of events, I know and respect Jim and wish him the best in his future endeavors."

Commissioner Tom Jeffers, who went through earlier years when the board was dysfunctional, said "I think he made the right decision and he's just very busy right now, this way we can help the veterans with somebody who can dedicate their time to it."

Commissioner Dave Reed agreed saying the board's main goal is to take care of the Butler County veterans "that's job number one."

"I'm very grateful for his service that he did, he did a lot for our country and in his time he was here he did a great job," Reed said. "Jim personally is a great guy, nothing personal."

Selecting veterans service commissioners is the responsibility of the Common Pleas Court and Powers has been the appointing judge for several years. The commissioners serve five year terms so he appoints or re-appoints new members annually. The members are nominated by local posts for the American Legion, AMVETS, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and an at-large member.

Powers said he will put out a notification of the vacant, unexpired term and VFW posts will then nominate candidates.