Dallas City Council Squabbles Over Attendance Rule

Proposal requires staying for at least half of a meeting

The Dallas City Council approved attendance rules proposed by the mayor, but four council members voted against the measure.

Mayor Tom Leppert said committee chairmen complained about absenteeism. If too many members are absent, the meetings cannot legally be held.

"People were leaving their meetings -- people would come in, get checked in to be there, and then they would leave their meetings," he said.

Leppert's rule requires council members to stay for at least half of the scheduled meeting time in order to be paid for it.

"It just says that to be counted at a meeting, you've got to be there for 50 percent of the meeting -- which again, my view is, that's very generous," he said.

Current rules dock council members' pay if they miss more than 10 percent of their meetings.

Two councilwomen said the rule was unreasonable.

"Some of the chairs leave the meetings themselves, so that is totally unfair," Councilwoman Carolyn Davis said.

Councilwoman Vonceil Hill also opposed the rule.

"I'm committed to what I'm doing on this council, but I believe this rule is more punitive than productive," she said.

Two of the council members who voted against the rule said they wanted to reach a compromise on the issue.

"We're basically causing more friction, I think, than is really necessary," Councilman Steve Salazar said.

Councilwoman Ann Margolin said she wanted more time for the council to come up with "a workable solution."

Davis, who voted for the measure, said she plans on keeping track of council members who don't attend meetings or are late to them.

The attendance rule is the first of several ethics changes Leppert is considering at City Hall. A former City Council member is currently on trial in a bribery case, and Leppert said he wants to limit contributions and require lobbyists to register.

"I think it's the right thing to do," Leppert said. "We're trying to make what we're doing here transparent, make sure that we're reflecting kind of the environment that we live in, too."

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