Concerns expressed about attendance of Hayden Town Council members

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By the numbers

Absences during the 22 meetings in 2013

Jim Folley 0

Dallas Robinson 1

Bill Hayden 3

Jim Haskins 5

Tim Redmond 5

Lorraine Johnson 6

Richard "Festus" Hagins 10

Absences during the three meetings in 2014

Jim Folley 0

Dallas Robinson 0

Bill Hayden 2

Jim Haskins 1

Tim Redmond 2

Lorraine Johnson 2

Richard "Festus" Hagins 1

— It is not just schools that track attendance to hold people accountable.

Before meetings of elected bodies, clerks take roll call, and tardiness, excused and unexcused absences are tracked. One Hayden Town Council member thinks his fellow council members need to be reminded of the commitment they have made.

“The group in general needs to be reminded of the importance of our positions and what we need to get done,” said Jim Folley, who had perfect attendance in 2013 and so far in 2014.

At Folley’s request, the council is scheduled to review attendance during its meeting Thursday night.

“It’s getting to a point where I think it needs to be brought up in a professional setting,” Folley said.

Mayor Jim Haskins said he is glad Folley has brought up the issue.

“It’s a touchy subject,” Haskins said.

To prepare for the attendance review, council members have been provided with attendance records as well as the attendance policy outlined in the town’s charter.

According to the records, council member Richard “Festus” Hagins had the poorest attendance in 2013, when he missed 10 of the 22 council meetings. The absences included four consecutive meetings. A phone message left with Hagins was not returned Wednesday.

The number of absences by other council members in 2013 ranged from Folley’s zero to council member Lorraine Johnson’s six.

Folley said that on some occasions it has been difficult to get four council members to attend a meeting. Four members are needed for the council to have a quorum, or the number of people necessary to hold an official meeting. Folley said it is disrespectful of the council to not hold a meeting because of attendance, especially when guests or consultants plan to attend.

“They come from out of town a lot of time,” Folley said.

Town Manager David Torgler has asked council members to let town staff know if they are running late or unable to attend a meeting.

“With posted public hearings being costly to reschedule and the sometimes need for council action, it helps all concerned to know when a quorum is questionable,” Torgler wrote.

Haskins himself admitted to missing several meetings, but he always lets town staff know he cannot attend.

According to the town’s charter, a council member can be removed if they have unexcused absences at more than three consecutive regular meetings or more than six regular meetings within any 12-month period.

“We don’t want to go down that road,” Haskins said.

Folley said he has no intentions of recommending anyone be voted off the council.

“It’s not a big deal at this point,” Folley said. “It’s just a reminder.”

At least five council members need to vote in favor of removing a council member because of attendance.

Excused absences do not count against council members.

“If an elected officer has a reasonable basis for missing meetings acceptable to other elected officers, particularly if given in advance, the absence may, at the determination of the town council, be deemed to be excused and such absence shall not be a basis for removal,” the charter states.

According to the 2013-14 attendance records, all of the council members’ absences were recorded as being excused.

“I know that’s not the case,” Haskins said.

When asked why all the absences were recorded as being excused, Folley said that may need to be discussed at Thursday night's meeting.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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