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Monday’s city Council meeting had a rather unique twist. Most of the time, the City Council and media members receive information about what is going to be discussed that night. This past Monday night on the agenda was simply the statement “Discuss Governing Body pay”. No further information was given to Council members or media members about this discussion, other than the fact that the Mayor wanted to have a discussion about this topic.
What we thought would be a discussion about the rate of pay, turned out to be about Governing Body attendance.
Eudora Mayor Scott Hopson began the discussion with the idea about tying council member pay to attendance at meetings. Currently, City Council members receive $200 per month and the Mayor receives $250 per month.
While Hopson did not have clear cut ideas on how to address the topic, he did eventually suggest setting up a policy for “excused and unexcused” absences and setting a benchmark for how many unexcused absences a Council member could have before any pay was docked. Councilman John Fiore did bring up the fact that some council members schedules may not be conducive to constant attendance.
“I’ve got a day job that is easy for me to be here by 7, but I know that at least two of our Council members don’t have that luxury with their schedule,” Fiore said referring to Councilmen Bill Whitten and Tim Reazin who are full time fire fighters in other municipalities.
“I don’t want to tell Tim or Bill, or Kenny or Ruth for that matter, or you (referring to the Mayor) because you had some terrible issues right when I started where you were out of town helping out with disaster victims and I don’t want to tell you ‘Hey don’t help those disaster victims because you have only so many excused absences’, Fiore added.
Councilman Reazin also brought up the fact that when the pay for the governing body was raised in 2011, the idea was that the money was not solely for attendance at Council meetings but to help reimburse council members for other outside meetings and their time spent preparing for the meetings as well as giving back to the community in the form of donations to various charitable fundraisers that occur regularly.
Reazin and Councilman Kenny Massey both suggested that the idea that excused versus unexcused absences would lead to causing people to lie about why they were not in attendance.
“This is a commitment and you signed up for this when you put your name on the ballot,” Massey said. “I think if you get elected to these positions you should be here.”
Massey did also reiterate Fiore’s earlier comment about the fact that Reazin and Whitten have extenuating circumstances due to their full time employment, but said that members can somewhat plan their schedules and plan ahead for things such as vacation.
“I think it should just be X number of absences per calendar year and if you go over that, then you get docked,” Massey added.
While no formal decision was made, the consensus was that further discussions would need to take place and some formal determinations in a work session should occur in the near future.
We took a look at the minutes from each meeting in both 2011 and 2012 to verify the number of absences for Council members and the Mayor.
In 2011, there was 23 City Council meetings. Mayor Hopson missed the most with eight absences. Bill Whitten and Tim Reazin missed six meetings each with Kenny Massey, Ruth Hughs and John Fiore all missing one meeting apiece.
In 2012, to date, there has been 15 meetings with Tim Reazin missing five and Bill Whitten missing four, including this very meeting where the discussion took place. All other Council members and the Mayor have attended all 2012 meetings.