Jan 1, 2010

Directors Set Meeting Mark

By Wanda Freeman • TIMES RECORD

Two city directors marked their second consecutive year of perfect meeting attendance in 2009, but roll call was not so happy for Fort Smith’s mayor.

An infection sent Mayor Ray Baker to the hospital in mid-November and spoiled his record as only a serious illness could. By the time he returned to the dais on Dec. 15, Baker, 70, had missed two regular Board of Directors meetings, two study sessions and two evening budget hearings.

Baker’s rare previous absences were also illness-related. In April 2007, he collapsed while teaching at Southside High School.

His one-meeting absence ended a 15-year streak of perfect attendance that began in April 1992. He retired from teaching in July 2007.

The following September, he returned from a three-meeting absence in connection with surgery for colon cancer, which had been diagnosed after the April incident.

The mayor attended every meeting for the next 26 months before being felled by infection in November.

Perfect attendance in 2009 meant participating in 57 meetings. The schedule consisted of 24 regular meetings, 23 study sessions and 10 special sessions, hearings or retreats.

For At-Large Director Kevin Settle and Ward 1 Director Steve Tyler, it was the second consecutive year of perfect attendance. Although there were 54 meetings in 2008, Tyler achieved his record by attending only the 41 meetings that followed his April 2008 election.

At-Large Director Cole Goodman missed six meetings in 2009, the most of any director, and At-Large Director Gary Campbell missed five.

Goodman missed two regular meetings, three study sessions and the Dec. 17 special session devoted to the city’s lobbying efforts and a consultant’s proposal to kick off riverfront development with a city-funded professional baseball arena.

Campbell missed one regular meeting and six study sessions.

Ward 2 Director Andre Good missed two study sessions.

Ward 3 Director Don Hutchings and Ward 4 Director Bill Maddox each missed one study session.

City Administrator Dennis Kelly missed a study session in May to attend a conference related to city business and a regular meeting in early October when his father died.

Regular meetings are at 6 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at the Fort Smith Public Schools Service Center. Study sessions are at noon on the second and fourth Tuesdays at the Fort Smith Public Library.

Board members are paid $1,000 a year based on attendance of the 24 regular meetings. They are docked $41.67 per meeting for absences. They also receive a $400 monthly vehicle allowance.

The mayor receives $10,000 a year, not based on attendance, and a $450 monthly vehicle allowance.