Amendment: Councillors can miss Tuff meetings, still get salary

Council approved an amendment to the district’s council remuneration bylaw to allow councillors to miss meetings without being docked pay, provided they have a valid reason.

The bylaw previously stipulated each councillor could miss up to two regular meetings and one committee of the whole meeting but their salary would decrease with any further absences.

Coun. Cathy Thicke proposed amending this bylaw to allow councillors to request council’s permission to miss meetings for extenuating circumstances.

Coun. Dorothy Baert voted against the amendment.

“I understand some of the intent behind it. I just think that we do have a responsibility and accountability to the taxpayer; we signed on to commit to attend our meetings and the remuneration is pegged to the meeting attendance,” she said. “I think three (absences) is generous and if you’re away more than three, maybe you’re off working a contract somewhere, is the taxpayer really able to be on the hook for that?” Mayor Josie Osborne noted the motion’s intent was for councillors to request permission from the rest of council to miss a meeting for a specific reason.

Thicke said council meetings are important and attendance is critical but there are instances where such permission would be warranted.

“If your mother was sick somewhere and you had to go for six weeks to tend to her while she died, would that not be a reasonable reason for you to miss?” she asked. “There’s an opportunity for council to consider an extraneous circumstance and it may only happen once every several years.”

Thicke doubted councillors unable to attend in person could use video calls through Skype.

“Within the constraints of this building we can’t even do that,” she said.

Baert said the permission stipulation could lead to awkward council discussions as councillors would be asked to weigh one another’s personal circumstances.

“I am not comfortable with it…I’m not in support of this,” she said.

Baert was the only vote in opposition to the amendment. reporter@westerlynews.ca