Lame-duck County Board member continues absence

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette The Houghton County Board discusses measures to take in response to member absences during its meeting Tuesday night. The Personnel Committee will meet with County Administrator Eric Forsberg and present a suggested rule change at the June meeting.

HOUGHTON — If Houghton County Board member Scott Ala won’t attend meetings, he should resign, Chairman Al Koskela said Tuesday.

“That’s what he should do, is resign so we can appoint somebody to take his place,” he said after Tuesday’s meeting. “He’s never said anything to anybody on the board. It’s an unclear situation. We’re going to have to change our board rules to accommodate this kind of situation.”

Ala, who represents Houghton, has not physically attended six of the past seven County Board meetings, including Tuesday’s. He participated in the February and April meetings by speakerphone.

Board members who are not physically present at the meeting can take part but not vote, according to state law.

The board moved closer Tuesday to instituting penalties for members who miss meetings, spurred by Ala’s absences. Ala, whose term expires at the end of the year, did not file to run again.

Ala said in April his absences were due to personal issues but did not elaborate.

The board’s personnel committee will sit down with County Administrator Eric Forsberg to decide a wording for the policy, which would then go to the board for a vote in June.

At its April meeting, the board discussed $100 fines for members who miss meetings.

Koskela said the board should add a provision to its bylaws, requiring advance notice if members miss meetings.

“I don’t think we can go back on this, because if you set the rules up, you’ll have to go forward from that time,” he said.

Commissioner Anton Pintar said a rule written too broadly might penalize members without a history of absenteeism. He suggested the penalty be applied for “flagrant” violations.

“If you apply this literally, then if any commissioner (who) missed a meeting for whatever reason, do you have to provide a doctor’s excuse?” he said.

Commissioners discussed what do to regarding missing committee meetings. Forsberg suggested drawing up a list of must-attend committees.

“If you’re on a committee, you should attend,” Koskela said. “That’s why you’re on the board.”

Koskela said after the meeting the board also has power under state law to withhold members’ pay.

“That’s something we’re going to have to decide on what we’re going to do,” he said.