Friday, May 01, 2009

Mayor Mussallem, MIA?

An interesting statistic has popped up on the attendance sheet of Prince Rupert city council this last session, with the city's main gavel holder, Mayor Jack Mussallem suddenly leading the council in missed meetings, a trend that could be problematic for him if it goes on into one more session.

Council has met for nine meetings so far in this current council year, with five of six councillors getting gold stars for perfect attendance, as councillors Ashley, Bedard, Garon, Kinney and Gordon Payne all making it to City Hall's chambers for their twice a month sessions. Councillor Thorkelson is deducted a point for a missed meeting earlier in the year.

But for those scanning the council chambers for empty seats, that of the Mayor's chair has become an empty location for three meetings running now.

Mayor Mussallem's spot at council deliberations has been taken over by acting Mayors at every meeting since the March 9th session, an absence that hasn't been detailed in council chambers or at least made public through the council minutes or website.

There may be a good reason for the absence of the Mayor for the last six weeks and if so it would be a beneficial thing to share with the residents, there would be no need to go into personal details if of a sensitive nature, but for a city considering tax increases and changes to civic programs and such, the image of the councillors carrying the ball for most of the process, without the guidance of the Mayor in council chambers leaves a bit of a void in that process.

More importantly there are Community charter issues at stake should the Mayor not be in his regular spot at the next session on May 11th. Division seven of the charter, under the category of circumstances in which a person is disqualified from office on council.. section 110 (b) calls for the potential disqualification of office for an elected official who is: absent from council meetings for a period of 60 consecutive days or 4 consecutive regularly scheduled council meetings, whichever is the longer time period, unless the absence is because of illness or injury or is with the leave of the council.

Most likely we will shortly learn that the Mayor has been on city business or some other explanation will be offered in a public form, whether it be the minutes of past meetings prior to that May 11th meeting or as one of the orders of business of the upcoming May 11th session. Rupertites being rather understanding of their political officals, would most likely weigh any explanation with a good deal of thought and interpretation.

But if there are residents that may be concerned about the flow of municipal business, the recent string of missed meetings could make for a handy target for those seeking more accountability, openess and attendance from the participants in councils deliberations.

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