Council approves rules of procedure without changes to absences
A revised Rules of Procedure was unanimously approved Tuesday by the Clark County Council following a public hearing but without the additional language on council absences sought by Chair Karen Bowerman.
“The way for (an absence) to be considered to be excused involves nothing more than giving advance notice by a designated amount. I don’t think this is the time to make that change because, as it was pointed out at the last meeting, there’s several factors involved with that,” Bowerman said following the hearing.
The 13-page rules of procedure document, which is required by the county charter, creates a framework for the time, place and conduct of council regular meetings and hearings, and the introduction, publication, consideration and adoption of ordinances.
It includes provisions for how and when public meetings are held, when a councilor can add or remove an item from a meeting agenda, holding work session and executive session meetings, appointments to boards and committees, budget reviews and a code of ethics.
The approved rules of procedure are separate from the ethics code and ethics review commission previously approved by the council and required by charter amendment.
During an April 13 meeting, Bowerman said she wanted to add additional language around councilor absences because, “to be unexcused, according to this guideline, is pretty tough. I could see a situation where we have some councilors that could be absent for a really extended period and no action could be taken. I’ve got a problem with that.”
Currently, council members only need to provide notice of an absence 10 days in advance to be considered excused, except in the case of an unforeseen emergency. Emergency absences can be considered excused by the county manager and council chair.
One example of an emergency absence would be Councilor Julie Olson’s absence from the council’s April 19 and April 20 meetings due to the death of a close family member.
The ethics code does state if a councilor has six or more unexcused absences from meetings within a 12-month period, the council can allege a violation of the ethics code.
Lindsey Hueer, policy analyst for the county, said in looking at rules of procedure for other counties she found council absences are usually left to state law.
“The prevailing idea is that’s the purpose of elections, if someone isn’t doing their job,” Hueer said.
She also noted there could be legal complications in reviewing confidential information related to an absence.
“For example, medical issues may be covered by legal protections. Somebody may have a death in the family, and they may not want to disclose that death in the family. That’s not protected, legally, information. Most rules of procedure don’t get into that,” Hueer added.
Under the code, penalties can include written order to cease and desist the violation, public admonishment, public resolution of censure and removal from all committees.
Bowerman said those penalties are “too slim” but didn’t indicate what further language should be added. She said she plans to continue working on revisions that can be considered at a future date.
The full document can be found at https://bit.ly/3vDOW0g.
— Shari Phiel