By Hailey Persinger
Killeen Daily Herald
Killeen City Council members have accumulated more than 50 workshop absences in the past 11 months - a period of time laden with controversial topics such as city employee health insurance, use of the downtown First Baptist Church property and the appointment of the city's municipal court judge.
Records obtained from the city of Killeen's legal department show that of the past year's 34 regular workshop meetings, council members Billy Workman and Ernest Wilkerson top the list of absence or tardiness. Every other council member has missed at least two workshops, but the lowest absence or tardy record is just a fraction of the top offenders'.
According to council workshop records, Workman has been late to or not attended 25 of the 34 workshops conducted between June 2, 2009, and April 20. Despite his list - which more than doubles Wilkerson's record of 11 absences or tardies - Workman said he stands by his nonattendance.
He said his attendance at regular, televised council meetings means more than attendance at workshops, where most city issues are discussed before a formal vote. Voicing his
opinion makes little difference during discussion, he said.
"I know those guys are going to get together, come up with a consensus," he said. "(The other council members) are going to do what they have to do. It's not a matter of me not being able to get there. It's just a matter of me knowing what they're going to do."
Though Workman said he makes a conscious decision to attend workshops only "when something is very critical for the citizens," other council members said they rack up absences only in times of illness, out-of-town trips or, like Wilkerson, National Guard duty.
Council members Juan Rivera and Scott Cosper have each missed five workshops. Councilman Larry Cole has missed four, and Mayor Tim Hancock and Councilman Kenny Wells have each missed three.
Regardless of the reason, Councilwoman JoAnn Purser, who has missed two of the discussion-based workshops, said voters expect council members to regularly attend discussions and committee meetings.
She said incumbents and challengers currently running for office should consider whether their availability is conducive to public service.
Attendance at council workshops and regular meetings is not mandatory for council members. But for legislation to be approved or a consensus to be reached, at least four council members must attend.
Because of a lack of attendance, six of the past year's 34 meetings have started with a nearly nonexistent quorum.
City Attorney Kathy Davis said the charter indicates no consequences for nonattendance and that it is only mandatory for board or committee members. Failure to attend three consecutive meetings can result in dismissal from the committee as voted on by the council.
"Does the charter require attendance? No," Purser said. "Did the voters assume we would go? I think the voters said, 'Yes, that's the person I want to represent me.' And if they're not going to go, they need to say it before they put their name on the ballot."
Though council members can propose changes to the city charter, which includes council attendance policies, only voters can formally approve amendments during a regular election.
Contact Hailey Persinger at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow her on Twitter at KDHcity.