Despite several city council and advisory meetings cancelled this year for lack of quorum, Gardner’s city business seems to plod forward.
Although a policy adopted last year by the council sets attendance policy for advisory board members, there does not appear to be an attendance policy for council members.
So far in 2016, four city council meetings have been cancelled due to lack of quorum: April 18, June 6, Oct. 3 and Nov. 11. Names of specific council members to be absent were not provided by city officials for the Nov. 21 cancellation.
According to the Governing Rules of Procedure, adopted in July, 2015, business commitments are not a good excuse for absences; however, the rules, thru omission, exempt council members from attendance requirements.
Council meetings are regularly scheduled the first and third Monday of each month.
According to the rules and procedure policy: attendance is recorded and “appointees violate the city’s boards and commissions attendance policy if they receive notice of meetings and without excuse miss three (3) consecutive meetings or attend fewer than two-thirds (2/3) of the regular or special meetings of the board or commission on which they serve within the twelve (12) month period following the member’s appointment, or an anniversary date thereof. “Excuse” shall mean more than inconvenience and includes illness or family emergency. Business commitments shall not be a good excuse.” Elected officials are not specifically mentioned in the attendance policy.
To date, one more council meeting has been cancelled than in all of 2015, according to Jeanne Koontz, city clerk. Although three council meetings were cancelled in 2015, special meetings were called to conduct city business. In 2015, council meetings cancelled were July 6 (rescheduled for July 13), Aug. 3 (rescheduled for Aug. 10) and Nov. 11 (rescheduled for Nov. 23).
Replacement meetings for 2016 cancellations have not been called,instead business has been carried forward to the next regularly scheduled agenda.
Previously Chris Morrow, mayor, has said he believes it is best to cancel meetings in advance rather than doing roll call and adjourning the meeting for lack of quorum. “I think it best to cancel meetings in advance once it has been determined a quorum will not be present,” Morrow has said. “I think it best to be respectful of people’s time, including the public, city staff, and the other members of the governing body.”
Problems with quorum requirements were discussed as far back as May, 2013, and in April 2013, when Larry Fotovich, then councilmember, said the four person quorum requirement can create a problem. However at that time, Steve Shute, councilman, said lowering the quorum requirement implies that fewer people are needed to make a decision. With a three-person quorum, only two people would need to agree in order to conduct city business. and he suggested increasing the number of council members to six or seven members. The quorum requirement was not made.
Advisory board meeting cancellations
Gardner has several different citizen advisory groups including: police, ADA, streets and sidewalks, economic development, airport and utility. The committees were instituted to increase citizen involvement, and much discussion was held by the city council regarding individual appointments and requirements.
Advisory meetings are held Appointees violate the council’s board and commissions attendance policy if they receive notice of meetings and without excuse miss three consecutive meetings or attend fewer than two-thirds (2/3) of the regular or special meetings of the board or commission on which they serve within the twelve month period following the member’s appointment, or an anniversary date thereof. “Excuse” shall mean more than inconvenience and includes illness or family emergency. Business commitments shall not be a good excuse.
However, since the advisory committees inception, there has been frequent resignations of members and meetings cancelled due to lack of quorum.
Most recently, the ADA meeting and the Economic Development Advisory Committee.
In addition, at least 5 of the last 13 Utility Advisory Committee meetings were cancelled thru May of 2016.
And in July, the Gardner Planning Commission was cancelled due to lack of quorum when four of the seven members failed to attended. Developers on hand to have plans approved and to wait until the next meeting.