Getting paid to attend

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Associating the pay of city council members with their attendance at council meetings makes sense and is worth consideration by every city.

The idea of paying council members for the meetings they attend is encouraged by The Alabama League of Municipalities, according to the January edition of The Alabama Municipal Journal. The city of Pelham recently incorporated it in an ordinance to approve the pay of the next council and the city of Columbiana is at least looking into the matter.

People in public office are there to serve their fellow citizens. Most don&8217;t do it for pay. In fact, the pay of council members is often not much compensation for the time spent attending work sessions, regular and special meetings and attending conferences to help improve their city.

But there are examples of council members who play hooky. There will also always be the occasional unavoidable absence due to sickness or personal emergency. But it begs the question, is it fair for a council member to receive compensation for slacking in the representation of their constituency, while others take their responsibility more seriously.

Denying a council member pay for missing a meeting may not be a huge punishment, but it would at least serve as a reminder that attendance is important. Maybe losing pay might be enough to encourage better participation.

In some cases, such as the city of Helena, pay raises for council members may seem long overdue. In other cases, economic stress on a city may require a cut in pay. Many go above and beyond their call to duty. We believe, though, that some do not and that a link from attendance to pay would serve as a positive indicator to those who vote that compensation must be earned.