Some on Sammamish City Council question attendance
December 5, 2012
By Caleb Heeringa
Sammamish Mayor Tom Odell suggested Nov. 19 that Councilman John Curley might want to consider his commitment to being on the City Council.
“We all take the oath of office knowing that we’re chosen for a reason,” Odell said before the council unanimously voted to excuse Curley for his absence at the Nov. 19 meeting. “If circumstances dictate that we can’t be here, we need to let people know well ahead of time and also need to make every effort to be here as much as possible … As we go through our tenure, if our circumstances change, we need to be in a position to evaluate that and act accordingly.”
In an interview, Curley blamed the absences on a combination of a bad flu, prior commitments to his auction business and a new job that requires he be an early riser.
Curley, a radio host on 97.3 KIRO radio, recently took over the morning show. Curley said he’s been waking up at 1:50 a.m. to leave the house at 2:30 a.m. so that he can be at KIRO’s Seattle headquarters in time to prepare for the 5 a.m. show.
That early start time can be a problem when Sammamish’s council meetings go until 10 p.m. or later, as they regularly do.
Despite the schedule crunch, Curley said he has no plans to step down from his seat on the council and is confident that he can balance his work with his responsibilities as an elected official. He said he is working with his superiors at KIRO to get an assistant to come in before the show and help put together material, potentially affording him an additional hour of sleep.
“I can’t burn the candle at both ends and do both jobs effectively,” Curley said.
Curley said November was also a busy month for auctions that he runs for charity and corporate events — many of which he said are booked a year or more ahead of time. Curley pointed out that some of the rest of the council is either retired or no longer working full time.
Councilmember Nancy Whitten, who was second to Curley in absences this year, suggested Nov. 19 that the council draft more specific rules for attendance. The council’s current rules do not contain any attendance requirements, only a requirement that councilmembers contact the mayor, city manager or city clerk beforehand if they are not going to attend a meeting.
Whitten noted that absences had recently proven to be a problem on the council, since some actions require four votes. In October, the council had to wait a week to approve a contract for a dock at Sammamish Landing Park because two councilmembers were absent and the remaining councilmembers were split 3-2 on the issue.
“If we have some disagreements … it could mean the city’s budget won’t get passed,” she said. “Being here is important for more than just having quorum, it’s for getting our work to pass.”
An analysis of council meeting minutes and video recordings shows that Curley has the most absences thus far this year, missing six of the 32 meetings and study sessions through November. Whitten was second, missing four. Odell and James each missed three. Councilman Ramiro Valderrama was absent for two, while Don Gerend and Tom Vance missed one meeting thus far.
Reporter Caleb Heeringa can be reached at 392-6434. ext. 247, or firstname.lastname@example.org.