Woodlake looks at absence ordinance


Woodlake City Council to vote on new rules regarding unexcused absences for city council members

By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN

WOODLAKE – Woodlake City Council is making sure members keep their seats by introducing a new attendance ordinance.

“It was something at the [Nov. 12 meeting] where councilmembers brought it up and asked staff to look at it,” Woodlake community development director Jason Waters said.

While the State of California has an official government code saying council members who miss council meeting within a consecutive 60-day period can be removed, many other cities have provided clarification for themselves. Waters says one of the issues with the 60-day state rule is nobody really knows when it begins, or whether there is a consequence if the City does not have a meeting within 60 days.

At the Council’s Nov. 26 meeting city staff says the most common ordinance allows for three consecutive unexcused absences before A council member is removed from office. According to the staff’s Nov. 26 report Woodlake’s ordinance would also make room for removing a council member who has missed 20 percent of meeting over a course of a year. Waters says the percentage will likely be changed to 15 percent when the ordinance is brought back to council.

City clerk Irene Zacarias, who takes down minutes for each meeting and records attendance has noted the absences of each member since 2013. While most members are present between 60 and 100 percent of the time, and the time they have missed has been largely excused, Chuck Ray missed almost 80% of meetings in 2015.

Ray, who was elected in November 2014, attended a total of five out of 23 meetings. He missed a consecutive 12 meetings before officially retiring in October of 2015. Louie Lopez was eventually appointed to the council in December of 2015, and served the remainder of Ray’s term. Lopez has since been reelected as of November of this year.

Woodlake’s draft ordinance qualifies excused absences as illness to the member or member’s family, away on City business, military service or an absence which the majority of Council found to be for good cause. However, the member still must provide a written notice prior to the meeting.

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