The Union Park Advisory Board plans to put members on notice about missing meetings but will not seek action from the board of aldermen to allow punishment for those who miss.
At its August meeting, the board reviewed a 2005 document that said board members must attend at least six meetings in a year and cannot miss more than three consecutive meetings.
Some current members could be at risk of exceeding those numbers. The board has had recent meetings in which it failed to get the required seven of 12 members to have an official meeting, but because the absent members didn’t give notice, other members already were at the meeting when they learned that. They would go forward with an informal discussion of park issues but often had to discuss those issues again at the next official meeting.
At other meetings, the board had to wait until after the 6 p.m. start time for enough members to show up to have a quorum. Some members who either missed or were concerned they would miss several meetings recently resigned and were replaced by members who have attended.
Attendance was not a problem at the Aug. 26 meeting, where nine of 12 members were present. But the board continued a discussion it has been having about attendance.
Parks Director Chad Pohlmann told the board that the 2005 rules were approved by the park board but never sent to the parks, building, development and public service committee or board of aldermen for official adoption. “So there’s actually no ordinance,” he said.
Pohlmann said he would want the current board to consider the rules before sending them to the next committee.
The board has discussed the attendance issue in the last five to six years, board member Gary D’Onofrio said.
City Administrator Jonathan Zimmermann told the park board that they make an important, unpaid commitment. “We have things that have to be attended to,” he said. “To me the park board is a really important part of the city. ... That’s why it’s important that we hear from you all and that we have good attendance as well.”
Board member Theresa Lanham asked if they could have alternate board members who would come in case someone couldn’t attend. Pohlmann said that would require a separate ordinance.
Lanham also suggested that board members be allowed to attend by video conference. That is not currently available, though members have participated by phone before.
Board President Suzy Curnutte pointed out that the 2005 ordinance doesn’t list any penalties for board members who miss too many meetings.
It was determined that the mayor would have the authority to decide penalties since he appoints park board members, who are then approved by the board of aldermen.
Mayor Bob Schmuke, who said he got his start in government with the park board 30 years ago, said attendance tends to go through cycles. “Right now, I think we’ve got a good board,” he said. “I think if you cannot make two or three in a row, but your heart’s in the right place, I would hate to see that person asked to leave the board. But I think you all would know if that person’s heart is in the right place.”
Board member April Thompson pointed out there have been legitimate reasons to miss meetings recently. “This past year, things have been chaotic for so many people,” she said.
The park board ultimately voted unanimously to accept the 2005 policy as written but not add any consequences. Those who missed an excessive number of meetings will discuss the absences with the park director or mayor. The policy also will be sent to all park board members.