Franklin wants ordinance to govern absences

BLYTHEWOOD – Some Blythewood leaders want it entered into the record whenever a council member misses a meeting, leading one councilman to call the request “tacky.”

As the March 27 meeting was concluding, the present voting majority of council voiced support for differentiating between excused and unexcused absences in the minutes.

Sloan Griffin

The discussion occurred after Councilman Sloan Griffin had missed two meetings this year – a special called meeting on Feb. 6 and again on March 27. He was not marked present at the Jan. 23 meeting, but joined remotely. After the town’s attorney questioned him as to whether he had properly notified the town clerk of his intention to join remotely – something Griffin said had not been asked of others who had joined remotely in the past – Griffin left the meeting.

Council members didn’t expressly state that Griffin’s absence drove the discussion. Councilman Rich McKenrick, though, voiced dismay that Griffin missed a vaguely defined “ethics briefing” in executive session.

“Had we known as a group that he was not going to be there, we could’ve asked our town attorney to give that [briefing] to us next month or at whatever meeting Councilman Sloan Griffin decides,” McKenrick said.

Mayor Bryan Franklin also singled out Griffin.

“Do we know why Councilman Griffin is not here?” he asked Town Administrator Carroll Williamson.

“No, Mr. Mayor, we don’t,” Williamson said.

Griffin told The Voice he missed the meeting because he was in New Mexico for about 90 days carrying out his responsibilities as a reservist for the Federal Emergency Management Authority, or FEMA. He denied not informing council members.

“I said exactly where I was at a previous meeting,” he said.

The published minutes of the January 23 meeting stated that Griffin missed that meeting also to fulfill FEMA responsibilities. The minutes did not mention that Griffin had tried to attend remotely.

“He stated that it wasn’t that he was on vacation, he was in response mode,” the Jan. 23 minutes state.

Griffin bristled over the notion that some Blythewood council members weren’t aware of his whereabouts.

“They knew where I was,” he said. “I’m not subjecting to the elementary notion that I need to submit an absentee letter.”

McKenrick said he merely wanted the minutes to describe absences as excused or unexcused. Others, however, floated tougher measures.

Mayor Bryan Franklin stated support for an ordinance aligning with McKenrick’s suggestion.

“That’s something we should codify in an ordinance to make it clear,” Franklin said.

The conversation then dovetailed into possibly punishing absent council members, with town attorney Pete Balthazor floating the idea of sanctions.

“I think I’ve seen that in other municipalities where something like that is codified or a member would face some type of censure or discipline with multiple absences,” Balthazor said.

The suggestion of sanctions triggered a strong response from Councilman Donald Brock.

“To what end, though? You’re in an elected position. You’re not required to come,” Brock said. “The minute you’re sworn in, you can sit at home for four years, collect a paycheck and never show up.”

Calling the attendance discussion “silly,” Brock said any council member could simply ask the town clerk to mark absences in the minutes as excused and unexcused. Passing a new law is not necessary, he said.

“The idea of passing an ordinance to punish somebody for not showing up or communicating because you can’t get along is just silly,” Brock said. “Let’s fight over more important things, gentlemen. This seems somewhat tacky.”

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