January 5, 2012 in Washington Voices

New leaders take oath of office in Liberty Lake

Council discusses absenteeism after member resigns
By The Spokesman-Review

The new Liberty Lake council held its first meeting Tuesday – and already experienced a shakeup.

Newly sworn-in Mayor Steve Peterson announced that Councilman Ryan Romney, who was not in attendance Tuesday, resigned his seat effective Jan. 1.

Peterson didn’t say why Romney resigned, but Councilman Josh Beckett implied during a discussion of absenteeism that Romney couldn’t make the time commitment and decided to resign.

Otherwise, the first meeting of the year sported a celebratory feel. In addition to Peterson, new council members Shane Brickner and Dan Dunne took the oath of office in a packed council chambers — the audience spilled out into the lobby and extra chairs and couches were hauled in so more people could sit. Duane Alton read the invocation and Judge Linda Tompkins led the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance before swearing in the city’s newest council members and mayor.

The biggest order of business involved absenteeism. Mike Cecka, the city’s new interim management consultant, suggested the council examine its rule that if a council member has three consecutive unexcused absences they forfeit their council seat. Generally, council practice is to excuse any member who isn’t in attendance.

“That deserves to be looked at a little bit,” Cecka said.

Last year, Romney missed 10 council meetings from November 2010 to October 2011.

Cecka suggested a cumulative annual total of excused and unexcused absences. He said if any council member can’t make half of the meetings it begs the question of whether he or she is serving constituents effectively.

He also suggested a guideline of what would constitute an excused absence. He suggested emergencies and illnesses could be excused, while business trips, vacations and social engagements might not.

Some of the council didn’t like the idea of an unexcused absence due to a business engagement.

“I can’t tell my company no,” Brickner said, since his job is what puts food on the table for his children.

Councilwoman Cris Kaminskas agreed. She said she shouldn’t have to decide between her council position and her job. She also brought up the plan to change the council’s rules regarding teleconferencing into the meetings. She said she once participated in a meeting via telephone while she was on vacation on the East Coast – in her time zone, the meeting ran from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.

She said if teleconferencing would be counted as an unexcused absence, “why would I call in at all?”

The rules of procedure will be discussed during future meetings, and the city will also be accepting applications to fill Romney’s seat. Applications will be due by 4 p.m. Jan. 16.

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