Council Cracks Down on Absentees

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To signal its intolerance for skipped meetings by members of city boards, the City Council amended its attendance policy and established that four absences in a year would place the appointment in jeopardy. The Council will then review the circumstances of the absences and decide whether they warrant terminating that member’s service.

Although the policy change affects all of the city’s appointed bodies, Council member Rob Zur Schmiede said that he placed the item on Tuesday’s agenda based on attendance at Design Review Board meetings and following a conversation with Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow.

Dicterow said Design Review absences were especially disruptive, “because we have tough issues that require multiple meetings and the public deserves to have consistency among the board members in order to get consistency of results.”

“If over the course of a period of time somebody is just not going to be able to be there…it’s extremely disruptive, particularly with the Design Review Board,” he said.

“I would think someone would choose to resign if they knew that they couldn’t meet their commitment,” said Council member Toni Iseman. Given the city’s reliance on the Planning Commission and the Design Review Board, which evaluate development projects for consistency with zoning and city ordinances, she asked for a report on their attendance records for the past two years at the next Council meeting.

A review of the Design Review Board roll call between Jan. 8 and May 21, using the videos posted on the city’s web site, shows that member Leslie LeBon was absent from six meetings while Roger McErlane and Monica Simpson each missed one. Remaining members Caren Liuzzi, and Robin Zur Schmiede were present for each. Notably, at the Feb. 5 meeting it was announced that Loraine Mullen-Kress, who was scheduled to replace Zur Schmiede when her term expired March 31, would begin her tenure early in order to substitute for LeBon who was expected to be absent for several meetings.

LeBon could not be immediately reached for comment.

The city’s previous attendance policy held that any Council appointee who misses more than three consecutive meetings would be “subject to removal” by vote of the City Council. And in any case, City Attorney Phil Kohn confirmed that the Council has the discretion to remove any appointee as they see fit.

Even so, the Council opted to change the policy so that four absences, consecutive or not, by an appointee within any 12-month period would automatically cause the matter to come before them for deliberation.

Zur Schmiede initially asked that the new policy take effect retroactively from Jan. 1, but Council member Kelly Boyd objected. “I think you’re going after one person,” he said. “To me that’s a witch hunt.”

Aside from the Design Review Board and Planning Commission, citizens appointed by the City Council fill out several other official city committees. They serve as advisory groups evaluating a range of issues, including recreation, parking, environmental sustainability and public art. Some convene as much as twice a month.

 

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