First it was the question of whether Lakewood should merge with Crystal Lake.
Now it’s a survey about Lakewood Village Board meeting attendance.
There were two emails. The first is below:
Lakewood Trustees Say NO to Accountability
I am seeking your input on this issue – by participating in the survey below – as well as your emailed thoughts.
Reporting on our most recent village board meeting of Tuesday, October 10, 2017, there are a few topics that I want to cover, however, I want to focus this report on just one, which deals with an ongoing issue that I feel needs to be addressed within our village board.
A Little Background
For many months now, we have been dealing with an ongoing issue in what I believe to be excessive absenteeism at our village board meetings, by some of our village board members.
On two separate occasions, very recently, our village board was faced with the concern that we may need to cancel our scheduled village board meetings for “lack of a quorum.”
For those not familiar with that official term, it simply means that the minimum number of trustees legally required to discuss village business and vote and take official board action, were not present.
In other instances we have had issues of great significance on the agenda for discussion and action, only to find ourselves discussing and voting on these issues, short two members.
And most often, we aren’t notified of these absences until the day before, or the day of, the meeting, so we are not able to plan accordingly.
In a few instances, we weren’t given any notification that a board member was going to be absent. They just didn’t show up to the meeting.
A Look at Attendance
Our village official offices run from May to May, with May 9th, 2017 marking the beginning of this new term of our village board.
Since the beginning of this term we have had 10 (ten) regularly scheduled village board meetings as we headed into our October 10th meeting.
Heading into this meeting, we had two trustees that had already missed 4 of these 10 scheduled meetings (40%), and in one case a trustee missed 3 (three) consecutive meetings, each with notice the day of, or the day before, the meeting.
This put 8 (eight) weeks in between village meetings attended by this trustee.
Finding this degree of absence to be both troublesome and problematic, I proposed a means by which to address and hopefully correct this problem.
At our regularly scheduled October 10th Village Board Meeting, I proposed an ordinance that would address this excessive absenteeism.
Our village board meets twice per month (the second and fourth Tuesday of each month) and customarily does not schedule meetings during the Christmas holiday season and once during the summer – giving a total number of 22 scheduled meetings in a given year.
The ordinance, as I proposed, set two thresholds for absence at regularly scheduled village board meetings.
- The first being 5 absences within a 12-month period (22 meetings) – this equates to an approximate 23% rate of absence.
- The second threshold being 3 consecutive absences at scheduled meetings which equates to an 8-week hiatus between meetings.
The ordinance, as proposed, essentially stated that if either of these thresholds were met:
▪ The board would hold a special hearing, at which the trustee in question would have an opportunity to explain his/her failure to attend meetings.
▪ The board would then make a finding of fact and determine if circumstances of the absences were extenuating as such to “excuse” the absences or if the office should be declared vacant, and a replacement appointed or elected to that position.
My Surprising Disappointment
As we began deliberations over this ordinance, and the need for some measure of accountability among our village board, I really believed this to be a “No-Brainer”… a “slam-dunk”!
To my surprise, only one trustee – trustee Phil Stephan – saw the importance of holding ourselves accountable in attending the board meetings that we were elected to attend.
Trustee Ric Ritchie voiced his concern that the nature of his employment could very likely be cause for his absence for 8 or 10 meetings in any given 12 month period as well.
I pointed out, that 8 to 10 absences out of 22 scheduled meetings constituted more than a 40% absentee rate.
I asked if he felt this was acceptable and asked if anyone believed that any employer would find that degree of absenteeism acceptable.
No response was given.
I remarked that the only difference I see, is that our “employer” as trustees are the taxpayers.
In a final attempt, I asked trustee Ritchie: “at what point… what number of missed meetings, should there be some accountability for attendance?”
Again, trustee Ritchie didn’t respond.
I asked further: “Give me a number? 8 meetings? 10 meetings? 20 meetings?” There has to be a point at which we deem absenteeism to be excessive and hold ourselves accountable! What is that point? What is that number?”
Again, no response was given.
Trustee Carl Davis, echoed Trustee Ritchies sentiments, stating that his employment along with vacations were cause for his excessive absences and could not really be helped, but he didn’t believe that it inhibitted him from performing as a trustee.
Trustee Amy Odom, asked if Lakewood ever had such an ordinance regarding absence from meetings in our code. (Which we have not) and went on to state that if we never had one before, she “didn’t see why we needed one now.”
The end result: the motion to approve the ordinance failed miserably with only myself and trustee, Phil Stephan in favor of this much needed accountability measure.
Your Input is Requested
I am very interested in hearing YOUR thoughts on this issue.
Do you believe that attendance at our village meetings is important?
Should it be incumbent upon our board members to attend village board meetings?
I have created an electronic survey to measure resident input on this issue. Your participation in this survey will help me to better address this issue moving forward. You will find the survey located at the right hand side of the Lakewood Tax-Fighter webpage: www.LakewoodTaxFighter.com under the “Community Resource Corner” or by clicking on the link below:
You can also read the Northwest Herald Coverage of this Issue at the link below:
As always, your thoughts, questions and concerns are always welcome and always valued.
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The second email on the subject is below:
Follow-Up to Accountability/Attendance Survey
In follow-up to yesterday’s report: “Lakewood Trustees Say NO to Accountability” more than 100 residents have participated in the survey so far, and I have received a good number of email replies, expressing varying degrees of disapproval of this lack of accountability, many being, outright appalled. KEEP THEM COMING!
And, please encourage other Lakewood neighbors to participate as well.
A handful of residents have inquired as to my attendance – for which I thank you. I, too, must be held accountable!
Since being elected trustee, in April, 2015, and including the 10 (ten) scheduled meetings, to date, in this term serving as village president, there have been 57 scheduled board meetings.
I have been absent for 2 (two).
In both instances, sufficient notice of my absences were given in advance, so as to plan the meeting agendas accordingly.
I would also note that of the 10 (ten) scheduled meetings of this current term, trustee Phil Stephan, also, has been in attendance at every meeting.
Keep the surveys and emailed thoughts coming! TAKE THE SURVEY
Your thoughts, questions and concerns are always welcome and always valued.