Proposal Would Oust County Council Members for Missing Four Consecutive Meetings
Councilman Paul Wynn opposes the bill, saying it targets him specifically, although he participates via teleconference. He does support the way the bill changes how council vacancies are filled.
Under a measure proposed by Councilman Jerry Daugherty (D-District 6) St. Charles County Council members not physically present at four consecutive meetings could lose their position.
Councilman Paul Wynn (R-District 4) of O’Fallon, took issue with the proposed legislation during a county council work session Monday.
“The whole point of doing this is to embarrass me,” Wynn said. “Certainly, I’m a staunch conservative. I’ve voiced my opinion, which doesn’t jive with certain other people.”
He spoke during the meeting via teleconference. He has participated in most meetings via teleconference since a new military contracting job took him to Afghanistan in October. He took the job after being laid off from his contracting position at Scott Air Force Base.
The council is due to vote on the legislation at its Jan. 30 meeting.
Daugherty told Patch that although the idea for the bill stemmed from Wynn’s situation, the bill is not about Wynn. He said the bill would affect only those elected in 2012 or afterward. Wynn would have to be re-elected in 2012 for it to apply to him.
“It’s not personal. If this were personal, I would have done it two years ago,” Daugherty said.
Wynn also spent much of 2009 in Iraq, where he also served as a military contractor, before he obtained the job at Scott Air Force Base.
Under Daugherty’s proposal, the council can vote to excuse one of its members if the member is absent. Daugherty said illness or injury would be a typical reason, but excusing the member would be up to the council’s discretion.
Councilman Joe Brazil (R-District 2) said he worried that if a majority of the council so desired, they could use the rule to remove another member.
“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Brazil said.
Show me state
Wynn said that since his job change, he works harder to fulfill his council duties, including staying up to 3 a.m. in Afghanistan so he can listen and comment during meetings. That’s why he initially decided to keep his council salary and benefits.
He said he has a self-imposed 24-hour response time for phone calls and emails, Wynn said. He has responded to more than 550 emails, he said.
Wynn also said beginning with 2012, he will return all of his take-home pay.
He also argued that Missouri state law, which bars him from participating in some votes, is out of sync with the rest of the country and the modern technology.
“The irony of it is that right now you can hear me. I can hear you. I can vote on emergency issues. I can vote on voice votes.”
But he can’t vote on roll call votes, and he can’t officially attend meetings. Missouri is the only state that has that regulation, he said.
County Counsel Joann Leykam said the state law applies to every political legislative body in the state except the Missouri General Assembly. The law allows state legislators to vote on any issue via teleconference, the Internet or other remote means.
But voting on issues is just part of the issue, Daugherty said. He said that since he has been on the council, he has visited constituents’ homes, businesses or property 100 to 200 times.
“There are times that, unless you actually see what you’re voting on, it’s impossible to make a good decision,” he said.
Wynn said he has received few complaints, but they seemed politically motivated.
“I’ve only received comments from three people directly,” Wynn said. “After doing some research, all three are Democrats.”
An Iraq War veteran, Wynn said he is doing his part to support the U.S. effort in Afghanistan.
“I’m in a combat zone. I share a room with one guy. I share a shower with eight people. We just had a threat the other day ,and now we’re back in full body armor The whole point is the mission I’m on is to create a stable Afghanistan,” he said.
Daugherty’s bill also would change the way vacancies on the council are filled.
Currently, there’s a special election if the vacancy occurs six months or more before the term ends. If it’s less than six months, the council votes on a replacement to serve the remainder of the term.
If Daugherty’s bill is approved, the county executive would appoint a replacement, who must be from the same political party as the previous office holder, with council approval. That person would hold office until the after the general election in November.
Wynn said he supports that portion of the legislation because it would save the county $60,000 to $80,000 on a special election. He said he would propose an amendment to approve only the portion that deals with filling council vacancies.
Previously, Wynn defended keeping his salary by pointing out it was significantly less than the cost of a special election.
County Executive Steve Ehlmann said that at one point, the county had four special elections in four years.
“Fortunately it happened back when the economy was good,” Ehlmann said. “If that had happened in the past couple of years, we would be scrambling to come up with that money.”