Councilmember Sharon Hightower initiated a discussion of the “excused absence” policy for boards and commissions at the June 4 City Council meeting.
Hightower said that the Greensboro Transit Advisory Commission had complaints about the new policy that requires a doctor’s note explaining the illness to receive an excused absence and it needed to be changed.
The response revealed the city’s strategy on how to deal with this revolt by board members and commissioners who have so far refused to accept the policy.
It’s shockingly simple, Mayor Nancy Vaughan with the support of City Clerk Angela Lord claimed the ordinance did not mean what it states in plain language.
Hightower who never backs down from a fight said that the language needed to be amended.
It wouldn’t take much change to make the ordinance palatable. But Vaughan appears to be trying to achieve the same results by claiming the ordinance doesn’t say that a board member or commissioner has to have a note from their doctor.
The ordinance reads ”Excused absences are granted by the board or commission based only on (1) written medical justification signed by a duly authorized Doctor of Medicine or (2) due to a family death, emergency, or illness.”
At the May Zoning Commission meeting Commissioner Hugh Holston pointed out the nonsensical nature of the ordinance which requires board members or commissioners to have a note from their doctor stating the reason they couldn’t attend a meeting, but if a member of their family has an emergency, is sick or dies they don’t need any proof at all.
To be consistent, if the reason for missing a meeting is a death in the family they should have to produce an obituary.
Vaughan and Lord claimed that a board member or commissioner would not need a note from their doctor explaining the reason they missed the meeting for an excused absence, which is true if they missed the meeting due to a family, death, emergency or illness. But not true if they missed the meeting because they were sick.
In the “Boards and Commissioners Handbook” there is also a dress code for board members and commissioners and since many of them have seen how City Councilmembers dress for meetings that rankles them also. At the budget work session which was an official meeting of the City Council Michelle Kennedy wore blue jean shorts and a tee shirt. Presumably if she had been serving on a board or commission instead of being an elected member of the City Council she would have gotten a reprimand, a demerit or maybe she would have been sent to the principal’s office to call her mother to bring her different clothes.
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter said that the new handbook and ordinance was a response to particular board members on a particular board. In light of the protests about the new rules, she said, “I think we need to bring it back up.”
She said, “If I have the flue whether I go to the doctor or not I don’t think I should go to the meeting.”
She said, “It’s the doctors note that’s a concern especially since they’re volunteers.”
About the dress code, Abuzuaiter said, “I would feel bad if someone who happened to be an auto mechanic or an HVAC technician wanted to go to a meeting but couldn’t because he doesn’t have time to go home and change clothes.”
This is another example of where some public discussion of the new ordinance before it was passed would have been helpful.