St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Council not eager to adopt mandate for its attendance

A council member's idea to penalize members who miss too many meetings was met with little support.


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001

PINELLAS PARK -- Ed Taylor's idea of docking City Council members' pay for missed meetings fell flat last week when no colleague stepped up to support his proposal.

Taylor was philosophical about the matter after Tuesday's workshop, saying that sometimes ideas just don't take hold.

But one Pinellas Park resident was less than happy with the council's failure to act on Taylor's suggestion.

"You are all elected to be the policy setters," Alan Swartz told council members during Thursday's meeting. "If you're not here helping to set the policy, your voice is simply the sound of silence."

Swartz's plea brought no reaction from the council. Members listened and adjourned the meeting.

Taylor's proposal was this: The least council members are required to do is be at two meetings and two workshops most months. That's a total of 46 meetings to perform the minimum requirements for the council job.

Yet some members have missed many meetings, and Taylor proposed that a council member be docked a fourth of his or her monthly pay for every meeting missed over two.

Chuck Williams said he did not care one way or the other if the rule were adopted. And Rick Butler, who has a perfect attendance record, said, "I don't have a dog in this hunt."

Less supportive was Mayor Bill Mischler, who has missed up to five meetings in one year. He was quick to explain that his absences were city-related, at such events as mayors' meetings.

The least enthusiastic was Patricia Bailey-Snook, who has been absent from those regularly scheduled meetings and workshops a total of 38 times since 1998.

First, she pointed out that the council met more than 46 times during each of the past three years, so her absence rate should not be calculated based on the minimum number of meetings.

And, Bailey-Snook said, much of that time she was ill. She recently had her 30th surgery after a traffic accident a couple of years ago. To compound the illness problem, her father recently died and took her away during meeting times.

"I know it's been a burden," she said. "I've was doing the best I can. . . . I've tried to be here."

Bailey-Snook pointed out that council members are entitled to all the perks that the city's regular, full-time employees get. Part of that is health insurance and retirement. The other part of that is sick time.

And, she vowed, her attendance should improve in the future.

"I know that I can do better," Bailey-Snook said. "I can tell you, I will be able to do better now."

The council must have believed her. Members chose her to serve as vice mayor for the coming year to stand in for the mayor when he's unavailable.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.