WM council members get low marks for attendance
No- shows impact key agenda items
The City Council, the legislative branch of the West Memphis city government, holds the keys when it comes to passing ordinances and resolutions for the city administration to act upon. There are 10 city council members, two representatives from each of five wards that divide the city. Taking action on agenda items requires a minimum number of council members in attendance, and the presence or absence of councilors can have an impact on the outcome of a vote or the council’s ability to take action. Such was the case twice recently.
While City Councilors turned down a raise based on benchmark surveys for most Utilities Department employees, some ward representatives that had voiced favor for the increases were absent for the vote on March 17. Again, at the first meeting in May, a rezoning request could not be read out when a councilman abstained from voting, recusing himself because of holding an interest in the property.
The corner lot on the northeast corner of Jackson and Avalon had been approved by the planning commission for a new Family Dollar Store, but the rezoning ordinance requiring three readings could not go forward by “reading it out” because of the number of absent aldermen.
With City Councilman James Pulliaum stepping aside for the vote, seven others were needed to move the project forward, but only six of the other nine council members were present.
The rezoning ordinance will be reslated as a result.
Seven city councilors are needed to form the required super majority to waive procedure and complete all three required hearings in a single meeting.
The attendance record of elected officials at the West Memphis City Council meetings varies from member to member. Like students attending school some, councilors strive for perfect attendance, while others have a record like truant students playing hooky. City Council members
also sit on various municipal committees and
commissions. They are paid $9,600 per year to represent their wards at 24 city council meetings (two-per month) per year, as well as the monthly meetings of the commissions and committees to which they are appointed. Individual dedication to those meetings also varies from person to person, with the most common reasons given for not attending most often stemming from work in their everyday occupations and health (reasons for absences are not recorded for the city record).
Looking at attendance going back to the first meeting of January 2015, the West Memphis officials with a seat in City Council Chambers those at the top of the class with perfect attendance include Mayor Bill Johnson, and City Attorney David Peeples.
Councilman Tracy Catt had perfect attendance last year and missed only the first meeting in May this year.
Councilwoman Ramona Taylor missed once in the same time span. Councilwomen Helen Harris and Lorraine Robinson missed twice last year and each missed once so far this year. City Treasurer Frank Martin made 21 of the 24 bi-weekly meetings last year and remains golden in 2016. Councilman James Pulliaum missed just four meetings during the entire period.
From there, the attendance level drops. Councilman James Holt missed four times last year and twice this year. Councilman Willis Mondy missed eight times last year as he struggled to rehabilitate an injured knee and has failed to appear at one-third of the meetings this year. Councilwoman Melanie Hutchinson missed 8 meetings during the last yearand-
The two city councilmen most likely to miss are Taz Tyrone and Marco McClendon. Tyrone was a no-show fourteen times going back to the start of last year. Mc-Clendon has the dubious distinction of racking up the most absences (17), including just one council meeting appearance in 2016.
By John Rech