Watchdog

Lacey 2015 council attendance: Hearn missed the most meetings, Clarkson the fewest

All seven members of the Lacey City Council were in attendance Thursday night for their first work session of 2016.

But full attendance wasn’t always the case last year, according to public information requested by The Olympian. The data show that Councilman Jason Hearn missed the most meetings last year, while Councilman Virgil Clarkson missed the fewest.

The following is the number of Lacey City Council meetings missed by the seven council members in 2015:

▪ Jason Hearn: 11.

▪ Mayor Andy Ryder: 9.

▪ Michael Steadman: 6.

▪ Lenny Greenstein: 5.

▪ Jeff Gadman: 4.

▪ Deputy Mayor Cynthia Pratt: 3.

▪ Virgil Clarkson: 2.

Lacey City Council members are busy. They attend about 100 meetings a year, including council meetings, work sessions and committee meetings. The full council generally meets once a week, on Thursday nights. The absentee rates are for those meetings and the committee meetings, which happen once a month.

But Clarkson, who is in his early 80s and is the longest serving member of the council, described meeting attendance as part of the contract he agreed to when he became an elected official.

“That is my commitment to them,” he said about Lacey voters in a recent interview, adding that he tries not to miss a meeting unless he’s out of town.

In that same interview, Clarkson said he was concerned about Hearn’s absences, adding that Hearn asked to tag along with him during his weekly meeting with City Manager Scott Spence. “Quite often he is not present on those occasions,” Clarkson said.

Hearn said after Thursday’s work session that he missed meetings for one of three reasons: work, family or illness. He declined further comment.

Mayor Ryder said Thursday he missed meetings last year either because he was out of town on city business — he serves on a city-related national committee — or was taking care of his mother. He provided hospice care to his mother at his house before she died, Ryder said.

Shirley Marie Ryder, who died April 27, was 66.

All of last year’s council member absences were treated as excused, although there is no weight given to the excuse, Ryder said. If you’re out of town on city business or simply can’t make a meeting, both are treated as excused, he said.

In the event a council member can’t make a meeting, the process in Lacey is for council members to notify Ryder beforehand or get a message to him through either the city clerk or city manager.

Council members are not volunteers. They receive $1,375 a month, according to city data. The deputy mayor receives an additional $115 a month, while the mayor receives an additional $225 a month.

Council member meeting attendance has been raised as an issue in the past.

In 2013, Lacey City Council candidate Ray Payne accused incumbent Pratt of failing in her duties as a public official because she allegedly wasn’t attending the city’s land-use committee meetings.

But Pratt refuted his assertion by providing data to the contrary.

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