November 26, 2011 in Washington Voices

Missed meetings impede action in Liberty Lake

Mayor proposes changing council attendance rules
By The Spokesman-Review
 
By the numbers

Meetings missed by council members and mayor:

10 by Ryan Romney

7 by Susan Schuler

7 by Judi Owens

5 by Odin Langford

4 by Josh Beckett

3 by David Crump

1 by Cris Kaminskas

1 by Mayor Wendy Van Orman

Last week’s City Council meeting in Liberty Lake was stalled for almost an hour for the lack of a quorum. Council members Ryan Romney, Susan Schuler and Josh Beckett were not in attendance and participated via telephone, and David Crump left to attend his daughter’s high school band concert.

While this isn’t the norm for the City Council, excused absences are common. A quick check of the minutes from November 2010 through October shows that attendance can be spotty, and sometimes members teleconference into meetings.

According to the Liberty Lake City Council Rules of Procedure, council members forfeit their position if they have missed three consecutive meetings without being excused. The procedure is in line with state law.

All of the absences have been excused by the council, and no one has missed three consecutive meetings.

“We need to take a look at our council procedures again,” Van Orman said.

The mayor said when a new ordinance or issue comes through the council, there are usually at least three chances to discuss it, in what she calls the “three-touch rule.” It will go through a committee and will be discussed during a workshop with the entire council. An ordinance has at least two read-throughs and a public hearing. The process can take up to six weeks. When a council member is absent, it slows the process down.

She said part of making sure the transition between administrations runs smoothly will be to take a look at the rules of procedure. She would like to change the forfeit rules to missing three meetings instead of three consecutive meetings.

“When you give it a number, it certainly sounds shocking,” Romney said of his absences. He said that trying to balance work, family and his other obligations can be a challenge.

“Things happen you can’t always control,” he said. He said he had every intention of attending last week’s meeting, but an emergency at work kept him from going.

Schuler said that during her first two years she missed meetings because her job took her out of town a lot. A case of the stomach flu kept her from attending last week’s meeting.

“We all have lives,” she said.

She noted that many members of the council have jobs that take them out of town.

She said she takes her duties as a council member very seriously and understands the impact of her absence. She added that she genuinely doesn’t like to miss a meeting.

“It’s not that I don’t take it very seriously,” she said. “I do.”

While her absences have weighed heavily, she said she hopes she is contributing to the city.

“I hope that I bring value to the council, and I hope the citizens appreciate my stand (on the issues),” she said.


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