Cortland City Council Considers Enacting Attendance Rules For Elected Officials
Cortland City officials are considering an attendance requirement to serve on the City Council, as proposed alderman who miss five consecutive meetings or 10 meetings a year could be removed from office.
Alderman John Bennett and Tom Michales say the attendance requirement is an effort to address a hole in the city charter that does not require representatives to attend City Council meetings or perform the job they were elected to do by voters.
Bennet says there are only 23 council meetings a year and in order to adequately represent the wards elected leaders must attend those meetings.
Michales also felt strongly about the attendance rule, he cited the frustration the council felt after former second ward Alderman Stephanie Hayes abandoned here seat in 2011, but refused to resign.
Hayes stopped attending City Council meetings and effectively moved to Ithaca after she was arrested for D-W-I and marijuana possession charges. Former Mayor Susan Feisli asked Hayes to resign, but she refused. For several months her seat sat empty despite demands from constituents that she step aside. Currently there are no provisions to remove an elected official unless they are convicted of a crime.
Under the proposed charter amendment, if an alderman is deemed excessively absent without cause the Mayor appoints a bi-partisan committee to investigate. If the committee recommends removal, the council would then vote to remove the individual. If the Mayor’s attendance comes into question, the Deputy Mayor appoints the committee.
Alderman Dan Quail and Linda Ferguson raised concerns about a lack of an appeal process, that prompted Mayor Brian Tobin suggested that any representative targeted for removal be given 10 days to petition a percentage of voters in their ward to call for a special election to keep their position.
City Attorney Kelly Colasurdo said she would investigate the legalities of the recall election and report to the council later this month.