The St. Charles County Council tabled a resolution Monday that would have enabled it to if they are not physically present for four consecutive meetings without an excused absence.
The council is likely to bring the bill off the table, but council members said they intend to make major changes that would eliminate the ability to remove a council member.
Since October, Councilman Paul Wynn, R-District 4, has participated in meetings via teleconference since a new military contracting job took him to Afghanistan in October. He took the job after being laid off from his contracting position at Scott Air Force Base.
“This ordinance is directed at Mr. Wynn,” said Councilman Joe Brazil, R-District 2. “Whether or not you support what he’s doing, the fact that he’s a contractor in (Afghanistan), we need people to do things like that. That is a patriotic thing to do.”
Councilman Jerry Daugherty, D-District 6, said, “I talked to at least 100 people in St. Charles County, and I have not had anybody say they don’t support it. They think it’s our right to decide.”
After the Jan. 10 meeting, Daugherty said the bill does not target Wynn because it does not affect current council members. Wynn, of O'Fallon, would only be directly affected if he runs for re-election in 2012 and wins.
But other council members said they opposed removing other members.
“I think what we’re doing here is wrong,” Brazil, of Defiance, said. “The people vote somebody in office and we, as a council body, take that power away from them by un-electing them by resolution. And then we put it to the county executive and council to pick a replacement. That is not the election process.”
He said if residents don’t like what their council representative is doing, they will vote the person out of office.
Currently, council members can remotely vote on emergency ordinances or in voice votes. However, they cannot vote remotely in roll call votes. Wynn voted in several voice votes on Monday night via speaker phone, including the voice vote to table Daugherty's bill.
Wynn previously said he was saving the county money by continuing to serve out his term. Otherwise, the county would have been forced to hold a special election to replace him at a cost of $60,000 to $80,000. Daugherty’s bill addressed that, too.
Now, the county must hold a special election if a vacancy occurs six months or more before the term ends.
Under Daugherty’s bill, the county executive would appoint a replacement, with council approval, who would hold office until after the general election in November.
Councilman Joe Cronin, R-District 1, said he also disagreed with removing council members by resolution, but he likes the part about replacing council members.
Brazil also said he believes the council should draft a resolution to the Missouri General Assembly, urging it to allow elected officials to participate in all votes over the phone. Although state legislators are allowed to vote on issues remotely, no elected board or council members in the state can do so.